mercoledì, ottobre 29, 2014


Iraq: "We are talking about genocide here"

By Aid to the Church in Need
Oliver Maksan

Fr Andrzej Halemba heads the Middle East Section of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). He recently visited the displaced Christians of Iraq: "It is the most tragic thing that I have ever experienced."

Father Halemba, you were recently in Iraq. Do the Christians there still have hope?

It is a very difficult situation. Without question, we are talking about genocide here. Genocide is not only when the people are killed, but also when the soul of a people is destroyed. And that is what is happening in Iraq now. It is the most tragic thing that I have ever experienced. I have seen people who have been deeply wounded in their soul. In the various crises in this world I have often seen people who have lost everything. But in Iraq there are Christians who have had to leave everything and take flight three or four times. They can see no light at the end of the tunnel. They are all very traumatised. Normally in such situations it is the women who pull everything together. But in Kurdistan I have seen women who have looked into nothingness and have closed up on themselves. The tears in their eyes are dry. It is something that I have never seen anywhere else. The men, by contrast, tend to aggressiveness. This has to do with the fact that they are no longer able to fulfil their previous role as the breadwinner and protector of their family. Now they have to beg for everything and they have no perspective.
Do you have the impression that the Christians wish to leave Iraq?
When one has lost all hope, one wishes to leave one’s homeland. The majority do not wish to return to their homes. This is a bad sign for the future of Christianity in Iraq. The Christians feel that in Iraq they have been betrayed and abandoned, and they want to get out. The Kurdish fighters who were supposed to defend the Christian areas against ISIS assured the Christians that they were safe. And suddenly ISIS overran the Christian towns and villages. Often they could not even take a change of clothes with them. That is a bitter feeling, to have nobody on whom one can depend. It reminds many Christians of the massacres in the Ottoman era, 100 years ago, when hundreds of thousands of Christians were slaughtered.
According to the Church, more than 120,000 Christians are now in flight. Do you have the impression that they are receiving the aid that they need?
The Christians are not being helped, either by the central Iraqi government or by the Kurdish regional government. So they feel like second-class citizens. This is not the least reason why they are so angry. The Christians are mainly left to their own devices. Naturally there is aid from outside. But the Christians can only come by it through their own efforts. We have true heroes of neighbourly love in Iraq. Bishops, priests and members of religious orders, but also lay people, have done exemplary work on behalf of their fellow people, and are still doing so.
What is the greatest humanitarian challenge at the present time?
The coming winter, of course. It can get very cold in Kurdistan, and it can snow. The rains are already starting to come. With the aid of ACN, we are trying to re-house the people from tents into accommodation containers. But in my opinion the greatest challenge is the mentality of the people. Are they already determined to turn their backs on Iraq and the Middle East for ever? This is where we must take action and give the people hope.
Above all, the people must once again believe in the future of their ancient and beautiful country. So the international community must work towards ensuring that the government in Baghdad is strengthened and incorporates all the religious and ethnic groups in the country. Only in this way can ISIS be ultimately defeated.
How does ACN intend to continue to support the Christians of Iraq?
We have made some four million euros available to help the people and give new hope. The accommodation situation, in particular, must be improved. It is often the case that more than twenty people are having to live together in one room in the emergency accommodation. This is unacceptable in the long run. So we are paying the rents on decent apartments in Erbil, and also in Dohuk and Zakho, so that the people can again have a few square metres for themselves. In addition, we must improve the situation of the children. The children should be in schools, not on the streets. We are helping to furnish eight schools for 900 children each. This also gives encouragement to the people, because it means that at least the children can have a kind of normal life. When they are going to school, they are no longer thinking about ISIS all the time. The children are our particular concern. Christmas is coming, and we want to give them a Christmas present. We will provide gifts for 15,000 children. Each package will cost about 25 dollars. Many volunteers will assist in their distribution. And every package will contain a card, calling upon the children to pray for the benefactors throughout the world. This will give them the feeling that they have not been abandoned.

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Tra i rifugiati accolti a Baghdad, più di 700 famiglie cristiane

By Fides

Sono già almeno settecento le famiglie cristiane provenienti da Mosul e dalla Piana di Ninive che vivono come rifugiati in alloggi e sistemazioni di fortuna a Baghdad, dopo essere stati costretti a lasciare le proprie case davanti all'offensiva dei jihadisti dello Stato Islamico (IS). Lo ha confermato in alcune dichiarazioni pervenute all'Agenzia Fides Raad Jalil Kajaji, responsabile dell'Ufficio finanziamenti per cristiani, yazidi, sabei e mandei, aggiungendo che il numero di rifugiati cristiani pervenuti nella capitale continua ad aumentare di giorno in giorno, e esortando organizzazioni di soccorso internazionale a sostenere con più decisione le autorità locali nell'affrontare tale emergenza umanitaria.
Jalil, che il 27 ottobre ha avuto un lungo colloquio con il Patriarca di Babilonia dei Caldei Louis Raphael I presso la sede del Patriarcato, ha riferito che gli scarsi fondi governativi a disposizione dell'Ufficio sono in via di esaurimento, e le condizioni di sopravvivenza dei profughi – alloggiati anche presso scuole, chiese e sedi di associazioni cristiane – sono destinate a peggiorare con l'arrivo dell'inverno. Secondo fonti del Ministero delle migrazioni e dei rifugiati, le famiglie di profughi del nord iracheno che hanno trovato riparo a Baghdad sono complessivamente più di 19mila. 

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martedì, ottobre 28, 2014


As ISIS approached, a seminarian took the Blessed Sacrament from the church and fled

By Aid to the Church in Need (USA)
John Pontifex

Bombs are falling and the sound of the explosion is sending shock and fear into the hearts of the people. Amid the sound of crying and frenzied activity, people pack up what belongings they can carry and make off into the night.

In the midst of it all stands Martin Baani, a 24-year-old seminarian. It’s dawning on him that this is Karamlesh’s last stand.
For 1,800 years, Christianity has had a home in the hearts and minds of the people of this village so full of antiquity. Now that era is about to be brought to a calamitous end; Islamic State are advancing.
Martin’s mobile phone rings: a friend stammers out the news that the nearby town of Telkaif has fallen to “Da’ash” – the Arabic name for Islamic State.  Karamlesh would surely be next.
Martin dashes out of his aunt’s house, where he is staying, and heads for the nearby St Addai’s Church. He takes the Blessed Sacrament, a bundle of official papers and walks out of the church. Outside a car awaits – his parish priest, Father Thabet, and three other priests are inside.
Martin gets in and the car speeds off. They leave Karamlesh and the last remnants of the village’s Christian presence go with them.
Speaking to Martin in the calm of St Peter’s Seminary, Ankawa—a suburb of the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil—it is difficult to imagine he is describing anything except a bad dream. But there is nothing dreamy in Martin’s expression. “Until the very last minute, the Pashmerga [the Kurdish armed forces protecting the villages] were telling us it was safe.
“But then we heard that they were setting up big guns on St Barbara’s Hill [on the edge of the village] and we knew then the situation had become very dangerous.”
Taking stock of that terrible night of August 6, Martin’s confidence is bolstered by the presence of 27 other seminarians at St Peter’s, many with their own stories of escape from the clutches of the Islamic militants.
Martin and his fellow students for the priesthood know that the future is bleak as regards Christianity in Iraq. A community of 1.5 million Christians before 2003 has dwindled to less than 300,000. And of those who remain, more than a third are displaced. Many, if not most, want a new life in a new country.
Martin, however, is not one of them. “I could easily go,” he explains calmly. “My family now live in California. I already have been given a visa to go to America and visit them.”
“But I want to stay. I don’t want to run away from the problem.”
Martin has already made the choice that marks out the priests who have decided to stay in Iraq; his vocation is to serve the people—come what may.
“We must stand up for our rights; we must not be afraid,” he explains. Describing in detail the emergency relief work that has occupied so much of his time, it is plain to see that he feels his place is to be with the people.
Martin is already a sub-deacon. Now in his final year of theology, ordination to the priesthood is but a few months away.

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Iraqi Christians Ponder Their Future As ISIS Militants Lie In Wait

Basima al-Safar retouches a picture of Jesus on an easel outside her house overlooking the flat Nineveh plains, 30 miles north of Mosul.
The murals she paints tell the story of her people, Christians in Iraq. But with Islamic State militants nearby, she is worried that life in Alqosh and towns like it could soon come to an end.
The Assyrian Christian town of around 6,000 people sits on a hill below the seventh-century Rabban Hormizd Monastery, temporarily closed because of the security situation. Residents of Alqosh fled this summer ahead of Islamic State militants. Around 70 percent of the town’s residents have since returned. Still, a sense of unease hangs in the air.
Below the monastery in the boarded up bazaar a lone shopkeeper waits for customers. At the edge of town local Christian fighters staff lookout posts, checking for danger. With Islamic State fighters just 10 miles away, these men and most residents of the town are scared that they may have to flee again.
In August, the Christian town of Qaraqosh, 18 miles east of Mosul, was overrun, along with neighboring villages, home to Iraqi Christian communities for centuries. Islamic State forces came close but never entered Alqosh.
Al-Safar, who has been painting murals of Christian life for 34 years, was born in Alqosh and shares her brightly painted home with her cousin and nephew. Earlier this summer, like many of the town’s residents, she fled to Dohuk, a Kurdish city on the north of Iraq.
“When I returned Alqosh was like a ghost town,” she said.
She began decorating her house with religious murals after the death of her mother three years ago. But now she looks at her depictions of biblical figures, potted plants, feasts and angels and wonders if she will ever paint again.
Before 2003, there were an estimated 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. These days, about 400,000 remain. In July, Christians fled Mosul in droves after Islamic State militants gave them an ultimatum to convert, pay a tax or be killed.
Mrayma and Athra Mansour, two Christian brothers, are trying to adjust to the new circumstances.
Athra Mansour used to teach the Syriac language to children in neighbouring Tel Isqof.
“Tel Isqof is empty now,” he explained, sipping a small cup of coffee.
Mrayma Mansour, who used to work as a local disc jockey and has since taken up arms as part of a fledgling Christian militia, said he wants international protection for his people, in the form of a safe zone, weapons and training.
“If this doesn’t happen I will get my passport, family and try to go to another country because it won’t be safe,” he said.
Thaer Saeed echoes the frustration.
“No one is working here,” he said, while playing with his three grandchildren. “I drive a taxi from Baghdad to Alqosh and I can’t work because it’s too dangerous and there are no customers.”
At 4:30, the St. George Church bells chime. A few women and children gather for the service led by Deacon Salim Qoda. Most of the aisles are empty. Prayers are read in the ancient Syriac language, a dialect of Aramaic believed to have been spoken by Jesus.
Wadhah Sabih, another deacon from the town, is proud of the Assyrian history of his town. The people of Alqosh have defended themselves in the face of many would-be invaders throughout the centuries, he said, but now “we are living cautiously; every family is ready to flee.”
Back in her home, al-Safar smokes a cigarette and reflects.
“I will paint the Christians as homeless people, emigrating with bags,” she said. “I will paint the truth.”

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Lettera dell'arcivescovo di Mosul: Grazie per gli aiuti, che sostengono le sofferenze dei rifugiati

By Asia News
Amel Nona

Mancanza di cibo, di vestiti pesanti, di coperte, di case, di medicine: è il quadro del dolore in cui versano le centinaia di migliaia di rifugiati irakeni fuggiti da Mosul e dai villaggi vicini, che sono riusciti a fuggire in Kurdistan. Mons. Nona, arcivescovo di Mosul dei Caldei, anch'egli rifugiato, ringrazia AsiaNews e tutti coloro che contribuiscono alla campagna "Adotta un cristiano di Mosul". Il vescovo racconta anche del conforto offerto dalle testimonianza di fede dei suoi cristiani davanti alle violenze e le minacce delle milizie del Califfato islamico. La grave crisi umanitaria è anche l'occasione per lui di scoprire un nuovo modo di essere pastore: non dimenticarsi di Dio in mezzo alle strazianti urgenze umanitarie della vita quotidiana.  Riportiamo di seguito la lettera che mons. Nona ci ha inviato dopo aver ricevuto la seconda tranche di aiuti della campagna "Adotta un cristiano di Mosul". Finora, essa ha raccolto e inviato quasi 700mila euro. E continua secondo le stesse modalità (v. qui)

Caro padre Cervellera,
                                          Voglio informarla che abbiamo ricevuto la somma di 123,297 euro mandata da voi, Asia News, ed anche 270,000 euro mandata dalla fondazione Pime Onlus. Questa è la seconda donazione mandata da Asia News al nostro comitato vescovile per aiutare i rifugiati cristiani iracheni. Questa vostra donazione arriva direttamente al conto bancario del comitato e viene registrata a vostro nome con tutti i dettagli della donazione: la data, il numero della somma, l'organizzazione che fa la donazione. Invece vengo a darle alcuni dettagli sugli aiuti, ossia sul modo in cui vengono spesi questi soldi. Siamo pronti a rispondere anche ad ulteriori domande che riguardano le donazioni.
Gli aiuti che riceviamo sono di grande importanza per noi perché facilitano la vita dei nostri rifugiati, che non è facile per niente.
Oggi i rifugiati soffrono di una situazione molto difficile, soprattutto perché l'inverno è già cominciato e la pioggia è venuta presto. Le difficoltà sorgono dalla mancanza di cibo, di vestiti pesanti, di coperte per proteggersi dal freddo... Vi sono anche difficoltà che riguardano problemi sanitari. Migliaia di famiglie non possono più pagare l'affitto delle case perché è molto alto, ed essi sono senza lavoro. Ogni giorno aumenta il bisogno e la richiesta di case, o di avere un posto gratuito che possa proteggerli. Quelli che vivono nei luoghi pagati o approntati dalla Chiesa - grazie all'aiuto delle organizzazioni caritatevoli, come la compagna di Asia News - stanno affrontando altre difficoltà quali la mancanza di lavoro e la mancanza di soldi. Anche questi luoghi sono affollati e pieni di tanta gente.
Le donazioni che giungono alla Chiesa da varie fonti, sono spese per trovare alloggi dignitosi ai nostri cristiani: ad esempio una casa al posto di una tenda, o trovare un posto per chi vive in una scuola o in aule sovraffollate. Gli aiuti sono spesi anche per medicine, che i bisognosi non possono pagarli. Affittare case o alberghi ai rifugiati, o costruire campi di roulotte, è la via più importante per usare questi aiuti, perché la maggioranza dei rifugiati non possono pagare l'affitto delle case.
Nella nostra situazione drammatica ogni tanto vediamo alcune luci dal cielo che ci danno coraggio a continuare la nostra vita di fede nonostante tutte le difficoltà e problemi.  Ad esempio, abbiamo ricevuto alcune testimonianze da parte dai nostri fedeli rimasti nei villaggi cristiani nella piana di Niniveh. Ho sentito alcuni giorni fa che nel villaggio di Bartella, una famiglia con un loro vicino erano rimasti là anche dopo l'arrivo dell'esercito dello Stato islamico (o Isis). Provando a scappare dal villaggio, sono stati arrestati e costretti a convertirsi all'islam. Il vicino ha rifiutato e per questo è stato subito ucciso. Invece la donna, per paura della sorte dei suoi figli, ha detto la formula con cui ci si converte all'islam.  Ma arrivando a Erbil ha chiesto penitenza e perdono, ritornando alla fede cristiana. Un'altra storia riguarda due donne anziane rimaste in un villaggio che si chiama Karemless, nella Piana di Niniveh. Queste donne coraggiose hanno incontrato i militanti dell'Isis che volevano costringerle a convertirsi all'islam.  Invece esse hanno iniziato a discutere con coraggio, difendendo la loro fede cristiana e dicendo che tutti hanno la libertà di professare la loro fede... Hanno discusso circa un'ora con i militanti che le minacciavano di uccidere, ma senza poterle convertire. Alla fine le hanno lasciate andare via. Io ho incontrato personalmente le due donne perché sono della mia diocesi. Le ho viste felici e piene di fiducia in Dio e in se stesse. Esse non hanno rinnegato la loro fede e hanno dato una grandissima testimonianza.
La nostra fede cristiana ci spinge ad aiutare gli altri nonostante le diversità delle religioni e delle etnie. Per questo la nostra Chiesa aiuta anche altri che si trovano nella stessa crisi, come gli Yazidi e membri di un'altra minoranza si chiama Kakai: diversi di loro si trovano insieme ai nostri rifugiati cristiani, e noi aiutiamo tutti.
Tutta questa crisi rende difficile la vita dei rifugiati, compresa la mia come pastore di una diocesi marchiata dal dolore per 11 anni, con alcuni martiri, tante famiglie emigrate all'estero e ora con l'arrivo dell'Isis, che ha svuotato la diocesi di tutti i suoi membri.
La nostra vita quotidiana è un continuo vedere ed ascoltare i rifugiati e i loro bisogni, e tentare di fare ciò che è utile per loro. Il lavoro del vescovo è diventato un agire concreto per rispondere alle esigenze quotidiane dei nostri fedeli. Nello stesso tempo, in questa situazione di grande difficoltà umanitaria, è importante trovare le vie più adeguate per sostenere le dimensioni spirituali di tutti. É un complesso non facile in cui bisogna trovare un equilibrio fra le esigenze umanitarie quotidiane in una crisi molto difficile e l'importanza di mantenere lo spirito cristiano nell'animo della nostra gente.
Ma alla fine, ringraziamo Dio di tutto, anche della situazione in cui fa vivere noi vescovi, perché ci insegna sempre di più come si può essere servi fedeli a Lui e al Suo popolo.

+Amel Nona
Arcivescovo di Mosul dei Caldei
Responsabile del comitato episcopale per l'aiuto ai rifugiati cristiani

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lunedì, ottobre 27, 2014


Displaced persons in Iraq speak to WCC

WCC visit to Iraq: A Future Destroyed (with English subtitles)
A 14 year old girl tells the delegation from the World Council of Churches she has no hope of returning to her home following the ethnic and religious purges of ISIS. This video was recorded 29 August 2014 at St Peter and Paul Assyrian Church of the East in Dohuk, Iraq. The church is housing 60 displaced families.

WCC visit to Iraq: Mosul - To Leave or To Return (with English subtitles)
Two women, one Christian and one Sunni Muslim, discuss the merits of leaving Iraq or returning to Mosul in the wake of ISIS atrocities. This video was recorded 29 August 2014 at St Peter and Paul Assyrian Church of the East in Dohuk, Iraq, during the visit of a delegation from the World Council of Churches. The church is housing 60 displaced families.

WCC visit to Iraq: "They Killed Everyone"
(with English subtitles)
This video testimony was recorded 29 August 2014 in a camp for internally displaced persons in Kefke, Iraq during the visit of a WCC delegation. This Yazidi man from the Niniveh Plain tells the story of his friends and family who could not escape Mount Sinjar after fleeing their homes.

WCC visit to Iraq: The Last to Flee (with English subtitles)
This man was the last Christian to leave his village on the Nineveh plain south of Mosul. Betrayed to ISIS by his close friend and neighbour of 16 years, he worries for the four of five families still left in the village. Video recorded 30 August 2014 in Dohuk, Iraq during the visit of a delegation from the World Council of Churches.

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Christians of Mosul Find Haven in Jordan

By New York Times
Rana F. Sweis

They were among the final holdouts. Even as many of their neighbors fled the violence that engulfed Iraq after the American invasion, the three men stayed put, refusing to give up on their country or their centuries-old Christian community.
Maythim Najib, 37, stayed despite being kidnapped and stabbed 12 times in what he believed was a random attack. Radwan Shamra, 35, continued to hope he could survive the sectarian war between his Sunni and Shiite countrymen even after losing two friends shot by an unknown gunman who left their bodies sprawled in a Mosul street. And a 74-year-old too frightened to give his name said he remained despite the trauma of spending three anguished days in 2007 waiting to learn if his kidnapped 17-year-old son was dead or alive.
Now all three men from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and its environs have fled with their families to Jordan, forced out by Islamic State fighters who left them little choice. After capturing the city in June, the Sunni militant group gave Christians a day to make up their minds: convert, pay a tax, or be killed.
It was “the last breath,” said Mr. Shamra, one of 4,000 Iraqi Christians from Mosul who have come to Jordan in the past three months and one of more than 50 people sheltering in St. Ephraim Syrian Orthodox Church in Amman. “We waited as long as possible until we knew we would die if we remained.”
Their flight is part of a larger exodus of Christians leaving those Arab lands where religious intolerance is on the rise, a trend that has caused concern among Christians outside the region — including the pope. It has also captured the attention of King Abdullah II of Jordan, a close American ally who has made the need for the continued presence of multiple religions in the Middle East a major talking point in recent years.
So when fighters from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, stormed into Mosul, the Jordanian government threw open the country to Iraq’s Christians despite rising tensions in Jordan over waves of Syrian refugees whose presence has increasingly burdened ill-prepared communities.
Hasan Abu Hanieh, a Jordanian political analyst, said the government’s decision was both humanitarian and strategic, at a time when Jordan is edgy over Islamist militants on its borders and anxious to keep its bonds with the West strong.
“The government can show the world that Jordan has a policy that seeks to protect minorities, unlike its neighbors,” he said.
The Iraqi Christians also benefited from the fact that Jordan’s small Christian community maintains good relations with its majority Sunni neighbors and mobilized quickly to help the refugees, many of whom were crammed into camps in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Also crucial was the intervention of Caritas, an international Christian charity that has spent years in Jordan serving displaced Palestinians, poor Jordanians and others. The group worked to let Iraq’s Christians know that Jordan was opening up to them. Payment for visas was waived, and Caritas and Jordan’s churches said they would provide for refugees’ basic needs.
Refugees did, however, have to pay for their own flights on Royal Jordanian Airlines from Erbil, in Iraq, to Amman.
About 500 of the new and often traumatized Christian refugees now live in community halls in seven churches in Amman and nearby Zarqa, trying hard to make do in places with little privacy or even enough basic necessities like toilets. Many of the other refugees are living several families to an apartment or house, paying the rent with their own money or with aid from Caritas.
Still, they are relatively lucky, aid workers say. One of the lures to come here was the promise of being able to more quickly obtain refugee status that might allow them to leave the region.
At the Mary, Mother of the Church in Amman, where dozens of the Christian refugees reside, suitcases lay on top of each other to save space. Thin mattresses with floral designs are spread across the floor and wet garments hang from windows to dry. The children, still afraid of their new surroundings, rarely wander off without their parents, even to play.
“I ask them to tell me what they saw, how they feel now,” said Khalil Jaar, a priest in the parish. “I try to give them hope by telling them about the resilience of refugees in the past.”
Besides providing shelter, the church feeds the refugees, doling out hearty portions of rice and vegetables paid for by charities or from donations from Jordanians.
Like the approximately 620,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan and more than 30,000 other Iraqi refugees, the latest arrivals are not allowed to work — an attempt to ensure they do not stay forever in a country that previously granted citizenship to a large population of displaced Palestinians. To while away the time, the men play backgammon, drink tea together or help with chores at the church’s school. The women spend their time mainly caring for their children and helping prepare meals.
Mostly, they are haunted by the abrupt end to their lives in Iraq, and to a Christian tradition that had survived in Mosul for more than 1,700 years.
Saif Jebrita, a photographer, said he knew it was time to leave when he went to open his shop days after ISIS declared victory and found a notice from the militants demanding that he abandon his profession. The group claims that images are against Islam.
“It’s the only thing I know how to do, and they wanted to destroy it,” he said recently as his two young sons stood next to him, fidgeting with broken toy dinosaurs.
At St. Ephraim, the 74-year-old who was too anxious to give his name said his greatest worry was the safety of his older son, who remains in Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. A younger son, the one who had been kidnapped, is with him, having survived that earlier ordeal.
To show what the family had been through, the elderly man carefully laid out photos of his old home on one of the only flat surfaces he has, next to the toothpaste and a small broken mirror. A neighbor sent the photos after the family fled.
A letter N for Nazrene, a term used for Christians in the Quran, is spray painted twice on the stone wall surrounding the home, which also is now marked Property of the Islamic State.
Mr. Najib, the man who survived the stabbing, said his 8-year-old daughter did not understand that there was nothing to go back to, and had been crying a lot recently, asking to go home. He bemoaned the loss of Mosul’s Christian community.
Under the Islamic State, “diversity is dead or at least dying,” he said.
Mr. Jebrita, the photographer, shared his despair. “We are very much part of the Arab culture, we are citizens of Iraq,” he said. “What do we go back to? There is no home, and if this continues, there will be no country.”

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Iraq, parla Sako: «Non solo armi contro il Califfo, ma educazione. I musulmani non si libereranno dai jihadisti se non cambieranno l’islam»

By Tempi
Rodolfo Casadei

Martedì scorso Sua Beatitudine Louis Raphael Sako I, patriarca di Babilonia e capo della Chiesa caldea, è stato il protagonista dell’incontro pubblico “Sperare contro ogni speranza – Testimonianza dal martirio dei cristiani iracheni”, organizzato a Milano da Fondazione Tempi e dal Centro Culturale di Milano (leggi la nostra cronaca della serata). Alla vigilia dell’evento il patriarca ci ha rilasciato l’intervista che segue.
Eccellenza, sono passati quasi tre mesi dall’esodo dei cristiani di Mosul, Qaraqosh e delle cittadine della Piana di Ninive sotto l’avanzata dei jihadisti dello Stato islamico. Che ne è di queste comunità? In che condizioni si trovano dal punto di vista materiale e da quello psicologico?
Le loro condizioni materiali sono tuttora miserevoli, perché sono fuggiti quasi soltanto coi vestiti che avevano addosso e poche altre cose. Sono scappati in preda al panico. Il morale è basso, perché a due mesi dall’esodo non ci sono novità che facciano loro sperare di poter tornare a breve nelle loro case. I loro villaggi sono tuttora occupati dai jihadisti e le loro proprietà sono state saccheggiate. L’emigrazione sta spaccando le famiglie: alcuni sono partiti per l’estero, altri sono rimasti in Iraq. C’è scoraggiamento sia a livello psicologico sia a livello spirituale.

I profughi si trovano nelle stesse sistemazioni di fortuna nelle quali li abbiamo trovati in agosto?
Col comitato di aiuto abbiamo cominciato a prendere alloggi in affitto per loro, ma non è facile trovare abitazioni per 120 mila persone! Avevano belle case, ampie, adesso devono vivere in dieci per stanza. Recentemente ho visitato una famiglia di 18 persone che vivevano tutte nella stessa stanza! Non hanno più redditi, e allora è la Chiesa che paga per loro gli affitti, grazie ad aiuti finanziari che arrivano da tutto il mondo, da tutte le Chiese d’Oriente e d’Occidente.

Giunge notizia che molti cristiani chiedono di organizzarsi militarmente per difendersi e che effettivamente sono sorte milizie cristiane di vari partiti e di fedeli di diverse Chiese. Cosa pensa il patriarca caldeo di questo fenomeno?
Non è un’opzione realistica. I partiti che promuovono queste milizie sono piccoli e non esercitano influenza sulla politica generale. Organizzare milizie cristiane in queste condizioni è un suicidio. Chi vuole difendere o riconquistare i villaggi farebbe bene a integrarsi nell’esercito nazionale, oppure per quanto riguarda la regione settentrionale nei peshmerga. La verità è che la maggioranza dei cristiani non si fida più di niente e di nessuno, nemmeno dei vicini di villaggio di altra religione: molti di essi hanno partecipato alle razzie contro i villaggi cristiani. La cosa più logica è entrare nelle forze armate dei curdi. Isolate, le milizie cristiane costituirebbero un facile bersaglio.

I profughi cristiani e delle altre minoranze dell’Iraq settentrionale non hanno bisogno solo di aiuti umanitari, ma di giustizia. Cioè di poter tornare in possesso delle case e delle proprietà di cui sono stati derubati. Lo Stato iracheno non appare in grado di rendere giustizia a queste vittime. Cosa dovrebbe fare la comunità internazionale?
Né il governo centrale, né il governo regionale del Kurdistan in questo momento possono fare qualcosa di serio per i profughi. Non hanno i mezzi né per lo sforzo umanitario richiesto, né per riconquistare i territori perduti. Devono usare tutte le loro attuali risorse per organizzare la difesa militare del territorio che ancora controllano. Tutte le capacità organizzative ed economiche sono concentrate nella difesa. Ad aiutare i profughi sono le Chiese e le organizzazioni internazionali.

E per quanto riguarda un intervento di polizia internazionale, più volte invocato dalle Chiese orientali, per restituire ai profughi le loro terre e le loro case?
Abbiamo il sacrosanto diritto di essere difesi e protetti, perché si tratta delle nostre case e della nostra terra. E siccome il governo iracheno è incapace di far rispettare questo diritto, c’è una responsabilità morale della comunità internazionale di fronte a questa ingiustizia. Questa responsabilità è più forte per quanto riguarda gli americani, perché all’origine dell’anarchia di oggi ci sono le loro azioni, antiche e recenti. Non basta bombardare i jihadisti, bisogna mandare delle truppe di terra. Dire oggi che l’intervento durerà tre anni o dieci anni, come hanno fatto i responsabili americani, è un modo di incoraggiare l’Isil, non di combatterlo; ed è un modo per scoraggiare i profughi, che capiscono che non potranno tornare per lungo tempo nelle loro case. Nell’immediato è necessario l’intervento militare, ma poi bisognerà soprattutto contrastare questa ideologia che si va diffondendo dappertutto, in Occidente come in Oriente, e che seduce tanti giovani fornendo loro un ideale per il quale vivere o morire. Tanti giovani musulmani che soffrono per l’ingiustizia o la disoccupazione, che sono discriminati per le loro condizioni sociali o per il loro credo religioso, sono attirati dalla propaganda dello Stato islamico.

Cosa pensa di quello che è stato fatto finora a livello di uso della forza, cioè gli attacchi arerei degli Stati Uniti e dei loro alleati, e l’invio di armi all’esercito iracheno e ai peshmerga? 
Penso che è una soluzione parziale che funzionerà per poco tempo. Non siamo nemmeno sicuri che le armi mandate all’esercito e ai peshmerga presto non finiscano nelle mani dei jihadisti o che servano per altre guerre. La soluzione permanente non sta nelle armi, ma nell’educazione, nella formazione umana. Occorre il dialogo, il negoziato. E serve anche la saggezza politica: le rivendicazioni dei curdi, degli arabi sunniti, dei turcomanni potrebbero essere risolte con l’istituzione di un sistema federalista. Questo sarebbe molto meglio che continuare con queste guerre interne che sfoceranno inevitabilmente nello smembramento dell’Iraq.

Lei ha detto in un’intervista che per i musulmani iracheni i cristiani che vivono nel paese «sono come fiori». Cosa intende dire?
Sì, lo dicono tutti: per la loro condotta, onestà, apertura, formazione scientifica e professionale, i cristiani costituiscono una élite. Sono il fior fiore della nazione. Sono differenti dagli altri, sono pacifici, aiutano il prossimo e sono molto qualificati nelle professioni che svolgono. Mentre fra i musulmani, sunniti e sciiti, ci sono problemi politici aperti che sfociano nel conflitto e nella violenza.

Come stanno reagendo i musulmani sunniti iracheni alle vicende di questi mesi? Arrivano segnali positivi o negativi?
Purtroppo sono più numerosi i segnali negativi. Il problema in Iraq è che con la deposizione di Saddam Hussein gli arabi sunniti hanno perso il potere che avevano. Fra loro e l’Isil ci sono forti differenze e contrasti sia politici sia religiosi, ma hanno in comune un obiettivo: diminuire il potere degli sciiti, aumentare quello dei sunniti, creare uno Stato islamico che impedisca l’avanzata sciita. Su questo punto collaborano. L’Isil però vuole uno Stato dove la legge islamica sia applicata sul modo wahabita, mentre gli altri sunniti sono più moderati. Tutti i sunniti oggi soffrono, e questo li porta a provare simpatia per l’Isil, anche se non accettano la loro ideologia estremista. È la solita logica politica: il nemico del mio nemico è mio amico.

Lei ha detto in varie interviste che il terrorismo non si sconfigge solo con mezzi militari, ma è decisiva l’educazione dei musulmani a un retto sentire religioso. Che cosa intende?
C’è una crisi nel mondo musulmano dovuta al fatto che non c’è un’autorità forte e centrale che decide sull’ortodossia. L’obiettivo di una nuova educazione dei musulmani dovrebbe essere quello di contrastare il messaggio di violenza e intolleranza proprio dei jihadisti, che rifiuta il pluralismo, la diversità, la democrazia, la libertà. A questo fine devono cambiare i programmi di religione nelle scuole dei paesi musulmani, si deve parlare dei credenti delle altre fedi in maniera positiva e con rispetto, con apertura. La soluzione è in un islam equilibrato e aperto.

Oggi ci sono sintomi di un cambiamento in questa direzione nelle scuole e nelle moschee?
Non ancora, c’è un grande lavoro da fare in questa direzione. Occorre intervenire sui programmi religiosi dei canali televisivi, spesso sbilanciati, sui sermoni degli imam nelle moschee. Adesso sono quasi interamente dedicati a spiegare le differenze fra le varie correnti religiose, e a dire che si tratta di eresie ed errori. Questo finisce per generare odio verso le altre religioni e i loro credenti in chi ascolta. Bisogna spiegare che il jihad non può essere una guerra contro chi è diverso; deve essere una battaglia di idee contro questa ideologia che distrugge i monumenti del nostro patrimonio storico e uccide le persone in carne e ossa. Serve un jihad per il bene, la stabilità, la pace, il rispetto.

Ha visto la lettera dei 120 saggi islamici che condannano le azioni dell’Isil? Che cosa ne pensa? Secondo alcuni meritano un ringraziamento, ma quello che hanno scritto non è ancora abbastanza.
Ho incontrato il principe Ghazi di Giordania, uno degli ispiratori di questo testo. È un primo passo, ma ci vuole di più. La spiegazione dei versetti coranici deve essere più approfondita e devono essere cercati i punti comuni fra musulmani e cristiani. Invito i musulmani a fare una profonda riflessione non solo sulla dottrina religiosa, ma sulla sua pratica. Nel mondo d’oggi occorre separare la religione dalla politica, perché la religione si basa sui valori, la politica sugli interessi. Dunque ci vogliono interventi più chiari e più forti, che non solo condannino gli atti dei terroristi, ma che dimostrino che la rottura con loro è totale, che non c’è nessuna simpatia e soprattutto che non si sta praticando un doppio linguaggio.

Eccellenza, i cristiani d’Oriente stanno facendo tantissimo per i cristiani d’Occidente con la loro testimonianza di fedeltà a Cristo fino al martirio, con la loro partecipazione alla croce di Cristo che ne fa i co-redentori dell’epoca contemporanea. Cosa possiamo fare noi occidentali per loro, soprattutto cosa dovrebbero fare le comunità cristiane d’Occidente?
La realtà odierna della società occidentale è una delle cause della calamità che si è abbattuta su noi cristiani orientali. I jihadisti pensano che in Occidente il cristianesimo ha fallito: non c’è morale, non c’è più rispetto per la religione, c’è soltanto la celebrazione del piacere, del libertinaggio e dell’omosessualità. Hanno paura che la cultura edonista occidentale venga imposta al mondo musulmano per distruggerlo come tale, e questa è una delle ragioni della loro violenza. Io penso che c’è bisogno di un ritorno alla religiosità, che l’educazione secolarizzata dei bambini non risponde al vero bisogno umano. Quando poi crescono scoprono che l’orizzonte dell’edonismo non soddisfa, e che c’è bisogno di altro. Bisogna rispettare di più i valori spirituali, senza mescolare Stato e religione. Serve una laicità positiva, che rispetta la religione. E i cristiani devono unirsi perché il pericolo è comune, devono avvicinarsi fra loro.

In che modo devono avvicinarsi? Cosa possiamo e dobbiamo fare insieme, cristiani d’Occidente e d’Oriente?
Pregare insieme, avviare rapporti permanenti, realizzare gemellaggi fra le Chiese. Non solo per inviare soldi, non solo per quello: ci sono cose più importanti. Si tratta di fare sì che i fratelli perseguitati sentano la vicinanza dei fratelli che vivono nella pace, si tratta di realizzare la comunione. Sono iniziative alla portata di tutti: una parrocchia, un gruppo di famiglie, una comunità. E dovremmo agire insieme anche sul piano politico: fare pressione insieme sui governi occidentali affinché facciano pressione sui governi locali perché facciano rispettare i diritti umani nei paesi in cui vivono i cristiani d’Oriente. Fare manifestazioni di piazza, marce di solidarietà, incontri pubblici. Sono tante le iniziative possibili.

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I fondi per i rifugiati sottratti da funzionari corrotti. L'Arcivescovo Nona: rubano a povera gente che ha perso già tutto

By Fides

Un'inchiesta parlamentare è in corso per verificare e punire fenomeni di corruzione riguardanti i fondi destinati alle famiglie di rifugiati costretti a abbandonare le proprie case davanti all'offensiva dei jihadisti dello Stato islamico. Lo rivelano fonti locali consultate dall'Agenzia Fides. La distrazione di fondi sarebbe opera soprattutto di alcuni funzionari e impiegati del Ministero per l'emigrazione e l'evacuazione. Alcuni di loro avrebbero applicato tangenti al trasferimento di fondi destinati ai profughi. Problemi nella gestione dei fondi sono stati ammessi anche dal vice-ministro Salam al-Khafaji, secondo il quale molti membri del personale ministeriale si sarebbero procurati falsi documenti per poter fruire degli aiuti destinati ai rifugiati. In alcuni casi le stesse famiglie destinatarie degli aiuti governativi si sarebbero viste rivolgere richieste di tangenti da parte di funzionari corrotti. Secondo i dati forniti dal Ministero, a ogni famiglia di sfollati dovrebbe essere corrisposta la cifra di un milione di dinari iracheni (corrispondenti a circa 850 dollari) per poter acquistare beni di prima necessità nella condizione emergenziale in cui si trovano.
"Purtroppo la corruzione in Iraq non è un'eccezione ma la regola, a tutti i livelli”
spiega all'Agenzia Fides mons. Amel Shamon Nona, l'Arcivescovo caldeo di Mosul costretto a trovare rifugio insieme ai suoi fedeli a Ankawa, distretto a maggioranza cristiana di Erbil. “Ma nella situazione in cui ci troviamo" aggiunge l'Arcivescovo "il furto grida al cielo, perché si tratta di risorse destinate a povera gente che ha perso già tutto. E spiega perchè qui da noi, nonostante gli annunci, non abbiamo visto ancora arrivare nessun tipo di aiuto concreto da parte del governo centrale”.

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venerdì, ottobre 24, 2014


The Dilemma of the Iraqi Christians

By Italian atlantic Committee
H.E. Habeeb Mohammed Hadi Ali Al Sadr
Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq to the Holy See
October 23, 2014

Since the emergence of the modern Iraqi state from and on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, the Iraqi Christians started to have a ray of hope and experience some religious freedom and active civil participation in public life, based on the new principles of citizenship, nationalism and secularism adopted by the new government in building new institutions for the country. All that made the Iraqi Christians more interactive and the first among others to absorb the changes, being significantly instrumental in rolling the wheel of development.
The Christian leaders, ministers, and technocrats played a pivotal role in establishing the state on civil bases, and many other Christians were prominent artists and intellectuals with a unique distinction. They exercised their responsibilities without pressures nor being marginalized, and gained the respect of both governors and governed thanks to their wisdom, high moral richness and experience, integrity and ethics.
Nevertheless, they have been waiting until these very days to have their full rights, in terms of freedom of belief and cult. The new Iraqi constitution ensures their equality in rights and duties in the same way as their fellow citizens, and its articles provide them with all the benefits related to minorities. Yet no ad hoc legislation on Christians has hitherto been approved by the successive Iraqi parliaments despite their importance. As long as such rules will not see the light and continue to be delayed or obstructed, Christians will not obtain their rights and freedom.
What is most important for Iraqi Christians is to have a new secular Iraq that balances between the respect of other religions and the civil rights implementation, because they strongly believe that religion can be separated from the state. As Iraqi Christians use to say “religion is for God and the state is for all”. Therefore, the enactment of the relevant constitutional provisions is the only certain guarantee to gain their full citizenship and to dispel this feeling of being discriminated and treated unfairly.
The most feared thing among Iraqi Christians and other minorities is the growing religious trend within Islam linked to the takfiri extremist ideologies. The takfiris do not recognize nor respect other religions or even Muslims who follow other doctrines, and resent liberal democratic principles, behaviors, and laws, which they contradict with their wrong way of interpreting the Islamic Shariah law. They consider the Christians as kuffar (non-believers), blasphemous, and a fifth column allied to Western Christians in the fight against Islam, although it is known that the West has never attached any importance to the eastern Arab Christians. They received some consideration only when immediate Western strategic interests were concerned, while being the first to pay the high price of the Western reckless policies in the region.
Our Christians suffered like all the Iraqi people in the last decades of the twentieth century due to the authoritarian regime. They tasted the evil of the dictatorial rule, resulting in bitter sufferings and violations of human rights, and watched their countrymen die in disastrous wars of aggressions. Iraq’s wealth was repeatedly exposed to endless conflicts which brought with them international sanctions, embargoes, and, consequently, misery, misfortune, bad health services, and corruption.
When nationalism proved unable to serve the regime’s goals, the Christians were surprised by the drastic shift from the secular (Baathist) regime to the so-called plan B (Religious Campaign). The then Iraqi leader attributed to himself the title of God’s slave and believer, falsely claiming his descent to the family of Prophet Mohammed in order to win over the population against the anti-regime movements emerging out of the failure of the Baathist ideology.
All these contradictions sparked the rebellion and anger that led to the revolution in March 1991, known as shaabania. The regime was on the verge of being overwhelmed by the crisis, and in reaction let Islamic extremist groups enter the country with the support of some regional governments, so as to keep the population under control. Such groups started to brainwash the new generation, giving out high amounts of money. Over time, the extremists succeeded in turning the fundamentalist incubators they had established into terrorist groups, particularly in the western area of Iraq. Terrorists were assured that they would have been the last to be eliminated in the event of a fall of the regime.
The Iraqi Christians did not welcome these changes and started to get alarmed. Moreover, the embargo inflicted by the international community severely worsened the economic situation, and as a consequence a large number of Christians, especially among the intellectuals and the most educated people, opted to leave the country, giving birth to a massive wave of emigration – most probably the biggest flow of Iraqis who left the country with no return.
Iraq lost hundreds of thousands of its finest sons profession-wise, like high skilled technicians, physicians, as well as intellectuals, who offered their services to other host countries. Thus, also the Iraqi church had to endure the loss of the best elements of the Iraqi Christian community, and could do nothing to prevent it.
The remaining Christians were the elderly people and those who still had some business ties, or were just waiting for the immigration papers to be ready in order to leave the country for the “family reunion”, as they were used to term it. Others Christians, though, had to stay against their will waiting for a better future to come.
As of late, the exodus of the Iraqi Christians was also an outcome of the regime strategy of nationalizing all health institutions and schools belonging to the church. The same Christian institutions that used to provide humanitarian services for all citizens, without exception, and represented a manifestation of coexistence between the two religions, were being repressed by the regime.
When the Iraqis saw the light of freedom on 9th April 2003, the Christians hoped again to be finally treated as equals, all the more so when they saw their fellow Christians taking part in the Iraqi Governing Council. However, they wished to achieve their rights without the help of foreign interventions. The international coalition spurred the resistance to the occupation of the country, binding together the defeated Baathists and terrorists groups. The Iraqi innocent people were targeted in markets, squares, state infrastructures and institutions, without exception of Churches nor Mosques.
By making use of systemic destructive methods, the terrorists’ project aimed and still aims to undermine the democratic experience of pluralism in Iraq, which represented a glimmer of hope through the Arab Spring to liberate the Arab people’s will and to achieve freedom, justice, and dignity − a long sought dream.
The Arab people were ruled by unjust traditional systems and inherited regimes, where their will was confiscated. The terrorist organizations and their supporters, who backed them up with money, weapons, religious declarations (Fatwas), and manpower, initiated a chain of bloody crimes against our people, including the Christians. These latter were subjected to their terror and innumerable attacks, like the terrible sinful attack on the Church of the Lady of Salvation in Baghdad in 2010, which killed more than 50 worshippers during the mass with two young priests, and the kidnapping and murder of Bishop Faraj Rahho, born in Mosul.
The brutal attacks created a desperate reality in the country that forced hundreds of thousands Christians to flee after selling their properties, estates, and belongings, resuming another wave of new immigration abroad which was facilitated by the intervention of some Western countries.
His Holiness the former Pope Benedict XVI, together with the Middle Eastern archbishops, warned the international community about the increasing migration of the Christian population due to the harsh living conditions in Iraq. To raise awareness on the Iraqi Christian predicament a Middle East Synod was summoned by the Pontiff on October 10-14, 2010. Among other important decisions, the Synod issued a strong appeal to the Governments and people of the region as well as to the international community, calling for a halt of violence against the Christians and of their emigration from Iraq, the cradle of civilizations and religions of which they are historic components.
From October 2010 until 9th June 2014, calm was restored and just isolated incidents occurred. That is why five hundred thousand Christians decided to remain in their homeland, following the Holy See and the bishops’ recommendation not to be influenced by the events and to keep on their faith and stay in Iraq to share the suffering and hope with their co-citizens, looking to a better future with God’s help.
As a consequence of the past tragic events, the national Government doubled the security measures to protect monasteries, churches. and Christian-populated areas. The Government was supported by prominent Islamic religious references, especially the Iraqi Imam Al Sistani, while some political blocs offered their spiritual backing to their beloved Christians and their solidarity in good and bad times.
The leadership of the Kurdistan Region showed an admirable response in embracing all the Christian families endangered by terrorism. A coordination with the central government was created on the basis of mutual mechanisms to re-integrate the refugees in the system and the state’s administration and institutions. The refugees were given a pension and salaries from local banks, and the Ministry of Displaced and Migration provided financial grants and ensured that the Iraqi ration cards were distributed to all the unfortunate Christian families in the region as temporary measures to be enacted until when the situation will not allow them to return to Baghdad and other important cities.
Regrettably, what happened on 10th June 2014 is equivalent to a humanitarian earthquake, a dreadful disaster for the Iraqi Christians which has never been taken in due consideration by the international community. The Christians of Mosul woke up and found the streets replete with the ISIS black flags, announcing the establishment of the Islamic State and giving them an ultimatum of few hours: either to convert to Islam or pay the jizya or to be killed by their swords thirsty of blood. This fate was not an option to the Yazidi nor to the Shabak, the Sheaa or the Turkmen, and they were killed instantly.
The Iraqi Christians in Mosul, with distress and sorrow, watched their Assyrian, Syriac and Chaldean heritage and manuscripts being destroyed by ISIS overnight. They saw with their own eyes barbaric acts like the bombing of their shrines and symbols of faith, their women and children horrified, their houses and possessions looted, their elderly and priests humiliated. They were all thrown out in the street with nothing but their own clothes. They started walking towards an unknown destiny, hungry, thirsty, and wounded, hardly standing on their feet. It is a tragic disaster that brings us back in history and recalls the genocide of the Armenian Christians leaving their houses in a panic, being displaced to different neighboring cities in search of a shelter to save themselves.
Yes, it is a catastrophe. Those people had not committed any crime in their life; on the contrary, they have enriched the Iraqi past and present history with their creativity, achievements, and peaceful values. But now they have to face such a fate and an unknown end, despite the fact that until yesterday their generous work had enhanced the Iraqi public welfare.
His Holiness Pope Francis was extremely distressed hearing the horrifying news of the crimes committed in Iraq, and fearful about the future of the Iraqi religious minorities, the dispersal of their heritage and the loss of their religious and civilization history. To lift some of their sorrow and suffering, besides his repeated appeals to prayer towards the faithful, he instructed the Caritas organization and the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” to  act immediately by sending aid to the displaced, helping  more than 2.550 families.
Moreover, the Pontiff sent His Eminence Cardinal Filoni as personal envoy to Iraq on 12 August 2014. Cardinal Filoni’s mission was to check the situation by his own eyes and to distribute humanitarian assistance to displaced families, assuring the Holy See’s spiritual closeness. He met with spiritual leaders and governmental representatives, joining them during  gatherings and events.
Through the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, His Holiness Pope Francis also appealed to the Islamic religious leaders to ensure that their voices rise up in condemning those crimes and that the perpetrators were not given any reason to legitimize their terrorists acts.
His Holiness also appealed to the United Nations and its Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, urging them to carry out their humanitarian obligations towards the Iraqi minorities in distress, and to unite to all the religious leaders of the Middle Eastern churches, on top of them the Iraqi Patriarch Sako in his continued request to save the Iraqi Christians from this slow genocide. Terrorism persists to expose them to a ruthless series of violence led by blind bigotry. Patriarch Sako is fervently requesting the international community, the European Union, the Arab League and all those of good will to clear the planes of Nineveh from the grip of the ISIS criminals.
The planes of Nineveh consist of 13 villages that must be protected by establishing a tight security zone enabling the displaced Christian families (amounting to 150 thousand people) to return to their homes and churches, and to prepare themselves for a wider mission to liberate Mosul from evil. A compensation for the moral and material damages they have undergone should then be granted to them.
Regrettably, no concrete and serious action has been taken thus far to address the suffering of the Iraqi Christians, neither by the central government in Baghdad, nor by that in Erbil, where no plan of liberation of Mosul and Nineveh’s surrounding has been contemplated. They merely focused on the liberation of Mosul’s dam and of the cities of Tel Uskuf and Batnaya, with the backing of the US drones and air strikes. The main aim of the military operation was to defend the Region of Kurdistan and to prevent the ISIS advance towards Arbil, while protecting the interests of the American fleet.
On the other hand, the Christian bishops would like to see a coordination between the central government and Erbil to solve the problem with the help of both the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga. Further disappointments have concerned the slowness in the welcoming of the displaced families in the region and the scarce quantity of the humanitarian aids they received. The grants of one million dinars provided by the Government was not enough to accomplish the mission as promised.
The constant delays in the payment of the employees’ salaries and pensions, as well as of their families ration are to be added to the poor health care service, especially for the disabled and the elderly with chronic diseases. Moreover, as there was no objection by the displaced families to be moved to the central and southern governorates, where some relatives and acquaintances could host them until better times, the Iraqi airlines provided only few flights.
And we do not have to forget that refugee camps need potable water, electricity, and other services, particularly schooling. Indeed, it is necessary to provide the students with educational activities and teachers.
The Iraqi bishops and Christians appreciated the words of love and compassion that Imam Al Sistani pronounced when a Christian delegation headed by Patriarch Sako paid visit to him in Najaf on 9 August 2014: “We are part of you and you are a part of us. We feel pain when you are hurt and rejoice when you are happy”. These words are still engraved in their hearts and live in their conscience.
However, Iraqi Christians tend to blame other Islamic parties, whether in Iraq or outside, for their failure in condemning the ISIS horrible crimes against them. They expect the issuing of clear fatwas explicitly prohibiting the scattering of Christian blood and honor, likewise the supply of money to those criminals. They expect an intensive campaign by Al Azhar and other prominent Islamic doctrine centers during the Friday sermons in all mosques of Arab and Muslim countries. They expect intellectuals and media throughout the world, together with the heads of tribal groups and the organizations of the civil society in Iraq to express their support, including by voluntary contributions, blood donations, and advocacy activities. Solidarity may be of great help to strengthen the national identity in the Iraqi Christians and to convince them that their fate is the same as the one of their countrymen.
Any failure by the government or people in showing their good will and enthusiasm in accomplishing these duties will deteriorate the situation further, increasing the feelings of frustration and bitterness that are accompanying the Christians of Iraq in their darkest age.
At the same time, the Iraqi Christians have to resist to the temptation of migrating to Western countries, which have significantly opened their borders.
If this scenario persists (God forbid), we will be responsible for inflicting a deadly blow to the multiculturality of the Iraqi identity. All Iraq’s historical religious coexistence and tolerance will be gone forever and will be wasted. The feature and respect that Iraq obtained in the human family will be demolished. Remorse will not help after the sword will have done its killing.
It is regrettable that the 216 Iraqi Christians who took refuge in Amman, Jordan, were provided with shelter, food, water, and medical services by the local Caritas in coordination with other Jordanian co-sponsors, just pending the completion of the asylum procedures to emigrate to European countries.
A representative of the Syrian Catholic church in Jordan, Father Nour Al Qass Moussa, is currently working with the Jordanian government to facilitate the arrival of the Iraqi Christians to Jordan, expressed his disappointment at their relocation in a third country. He also criticized the US limited air strikes that were carried out only to defend and protect its short term interests in the Region of Kurdistan, and not to protect and save the Iraqi Christians.
The data of the third and last wave of Christians’ emigration from Iraq confirm the existence of a consensus among the Christian immigrants to return to Iraq even if stability will be restored, and they do not even want to settle in other Arab states due to the fragility of the security situation throughout the broader region.
The Christian curia in the Middle East predicted such a situation on the occasion of a meeting organized in Beirut last August 7th in support of the Iraqi Christians. Prior, regrets towards the Islamic and Arab world for the “shameful” crimes committed against its own people had been expressed by the Egyptian Catholic Patriarchate on 18th August 2013. Based on these statements, the main exponents of the Christian clergy in the Middle East went to Erbil on 20th August 2014. The group was headed by the Maronite Patriarch Al Rai, the Melkite Patriarch Laham, the Assyrian Catholic Yunnan, and the Assyrians Orthodox Afram II.
They were all received by Patriarch Sako to carry out an inspection tour and meet with Iraqi Christians in the Region of Kurdistan. After accomplishing their mission, the group of Christian leaders held a press conference and concluded that only a swift action by the UN Security Council can save the displaced Christians, prevent the migration flow from Iraq, and rid the country of their occupiers.
The leaders also appealed to His Holiness Pope Francis for a more influential effort in urging the international community to stop the ISIS criminals and to provide the Iraqi Christians with international protection. They also reiterated their resentment for the cold reaction from the Islamic states towards the atrocious crimes against humanity committed in Iraq, violating all God’s divine laws.
In order to overcome this crisis and to prevent other Iraqi Christians from migrating and heavy losses from occurring, all individuals, religious organizations, independent entities, ministries, government and parliamentary committees, must stand together to find an effective mechanism to sustain the displaced community and arrange joint programs to keep the bonds between the population who was forced to leave their homeland and the one inside the country. They must promote new means of dialogue and assume a leading role in bringing the Western Christians and the Eastern Muslims closer.
Our immigrant generation is capable and adequate to represent the Iraqi tradition, enriched by the mentalities and cultures of the West. This new generation, armed with knowledge and history, is entrusted with the construction of a better future in the framework of a consolidation of Christian-Islamic relations, building bridges of peace between religions.

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La petizione per i cristiani perseguitati d’Iraq arriva alle Nazioni Unite

By Aleteia

Consegnate da Aleteia oltre 300.000 firme a sostegno dei cristiani che vivono sotto la minaccia dell'Isis
Il 23 ottobre, a Ginevra, si è svolta la cerimonia di consegna delle firme della petizione internazionale “Salviamo i cristiani dell'Iraq”, presso le Nazioni Unite.
Durante l’incontro, Alexander Aleinikoff, Vice Alto Commissario delle Nazioni Unite per i rifugiati (UNHCR), ha sottolineato l’importanza della mobilizzazione dell’opinione pubblica di fronte alla tragedia umanitaria in Iraq.

La campagna, che ha raccolto circa 300mila firme da tutti i continenti, è promossa dal network d’informazione cattolico, attraverso la piattaforma

Ha preso parte all’incontro l’arcivescovo Silvano Maria Tomasi, osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso le Nazioni Unite, che ha sottolineato l’urgenza degli aiuti ai rifugiati iracheni, in previsione delle intemperie invernali.

“La situazione attuale in Iraq è la nostra priorità”, ha risposto il Vice Alto Commissariato, ringraziando per questo sforzo di sensibilizzazione in favore di tutte le persone a rischio.

“Queste firme, rappresentano un grido di speranza e di aiuto, per le migliaia di rifugiati, affinché venga fermato questo scempio contro l’umanità stessa”, ha detto Jesus Colina, direttore editoriale di Aleteia, al momento della consegna della petizione.
In conclusione, Monsignor Tomasi, ha ribadito l’importanza che i mezzi d’informazione possono svolgere per tenere desta l’attenzione su quanto sta avvenendo in Iraq.

E’ possibile contribuire alla petizione, dall’indirizzo:

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Iraq: Caritas italiana. Al via la campagna "adotta una famiglia di profughi iracheni"


Caritas Italiana lancia una campagna di gemellaggi per l‘adozione di famiglie di profughi iracheni. L’appello di Papa Francesco per i cristiani del Medio Oriente hanno trovato riscontro anche negli incontri che una delegazione della Conferenza episcopale italiana - guidata dal segretario generale, monsignor Nunzio Galantino - ha avuto visitando la scorsa settimana i campi profughi a Erbil, nel Kurdistan iracheno.
Assieme alla riconoscenza sia per il milione di euro messo a disposizione dalla Cei per la prima emergenza sia per i 2 milioni e 300mila euro destinati alla costruzione di un’Università cattolica - entrambi stanziati dai fondi otto per mille - i vescovi locali hanno chiesto di avviare una collaborazione a più lunga scadenza.
Caritas Italiana si è così fatta promotrice di alcune proposte concrete, su cui si chiede alle famiglie, alle parrocchie e alle diocesi di convergere, per quanto sarà loro possibile. La prima (denominata “Progetto Famiglia”) riguarda la realizzazione di gemellaggi con famiglie di profughi, finalizzati ad assicurare un minimo dignitoso a una famiglia di 5 persone. Ci si può impegnare per un mese (140 euro), per un trimestre (420 euro), per un semestre (840 euro) o per un anno (1.680 euro).
La seconda proposta (“Progetto Casa”) concerne l’acquisto di 150 container per l’alloggio di altrettante famiglie. In questo caso, il costo è di 3.140 euro per unità.
Infine, la terza iniziativa (“Progetto Scuola”) riguarda l’acquisto di 6 autobus per il trasporto dei bambini in 8 scuole a Erbil e a Dahuk: ogni pullman costa 40.720 euro.

Per sostenere gli interventi, le offerte vanno inviate a

Caritas Italiana, via Aurelia 796 - 00165 Roma, tramite c/c postale n. 347013, specificando nella causale: Gemellaggi l’Iraq / Progetto Famiglia (oppure Casa oppure Scuola).
Offerte sono possibili anche tramite altri canali, tra cui:
UniCredit, via Taranto 49, Roma - Iban: IT 88 U 02008 05206 000011063119;

Banca Prossima, piazza della Libertà 13, Roma - Iban: IT 06 A 03359 01600 100000012474;

Banco Posta, viale Europa 175, Roma - Iban: IT91 P076 0103 2000 0000 0347 013;

Banca Popolare Etica, via Parigi 17, Roma - Iban: IT 29 U 05018 03200 000000011113;

on line su


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L'Onu lancia una raccolta fondi: 2,2 miliardi di dollari per gli sfollati da Iraq e Siria

By Asia News

Le Nazioni Unite hanno lanciato ieri una campagna per raccogliere 2,2 miliardi di dollari, da stanziare in progetti di assistenza che coinvolgeranno 5,2 milioni di persone - profughi o sfollati interni - colpite dal conflitto in Siria e Iraq. Nel corso di una visita ufficiale a Baghdad Neill Wright, coordinatore umanitario Onu per l'Iraq, sottolinea che "i bisogni della popolazione irakena sono immensi". 
Stime aggiornate delle Nazioni Unite riferiscono che vi sono almeno 1,8 milioni di sfollati in tutto il Paese, altri 1,5 milioni nelle comunità che ospitano gli sfollati e 1,7 milioni che vivono nelle aree teatro del conflitto, fuori dal controllo governativo e bisognose di aiuti. Sono almeno 2,8 milioni le persone che necessitano di assistenza alimentare e quasi 800mila quelle che "hanno bisogno urgente di cibo". 
Delle centinaia di migliaia di persone in fuga dalle ondate cicliche di violenza che hanno insanguinato l'Iraq in questo 2014, la maggior parte delle quali perpetrare dai jihadisti dello Stato islamico (SI), in molti hanno trovato rifugio nella regione autonoma del Kurdistan irakeno. In inverno nell'area le temperature possono variare da 5 fino a - 16 gradi; le Nazioni Unite hanno lanciato a più riprese l'allerta per gli sfollati, alcuni dei quali non hanno nemmeno un alloggio o un riparo per sfuggire ai rigori del freddo. 
Ai milioni di sfollati irakeni si sommano anche i 200mila rifugiati siriani, che hanno cercato riparo sul suolo irakeno, e il milione di sfollati interni a causa delle violenze dell'ultimo decennio (2003 - 2013). Un analogo appello lanciato in precedenza dall'Onu e mirato alla raccolta fondi per i profughi in Iraq e Siria non ha raggiunto (di molto) gli obiettivi fissati.

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giovedì, ottobre 23, 2014


Decreto del Patriarca caldeo sui sacerdoti e religiosi espatriati senza il consenso dei superiori

By Fides

“Prima di essere ordinato, il sacerdote promette di offrire tutta la sua vita a Dio e alla Chiesa: E' un’offerta che poggia sull'obbedienza ai superiori senza alcuna riserva”.
Per i monaci, poi, “i voti sono assoluti: castità, obbedienza, e povertà”. Inizia con questo deciso richiamo agli impegni connessi alla vocazione sacerdotale e religiosa, il Decreto pubblicato mercoledì 22 ottobre dal Patriarca di Babilonia dei caldei, Louis Raphael I, per rendere note le misure disciplinari prese nei confronti di alcuni sacerdoti e religiosi caldei che negli ultimi anni hanno lasciato l'Iraq senza il consenso dei superiori, chiedendo asilo in Paesi occidentali.
“Noi - si legge nel Decreto patriarcale, pervenuto all'Agenzia Fides - abbiamo esempi luminosi di preti dei nostri giorni che ci danno eloquenti lezioni di fede”.
Il Patriarca cita i sacerdoti Hana Qasha e Ragheed Ganni, e il Vescovo Paulus Faraj Rahho, uccisi negli ultimi anni, e ricorda i preti rapiti che sono rimasti nel Paese e quelli che, dopo essere stati cacciati dalle proprie case, hanno seguito i loro fedeli, condividendone la condizione di profughi. Poi, in conformità al Diritto canonico e alle regole per la vita religiosa, il Decreto sospende dalla pratica del ministero sacerdotale sei monaci e sei sacerdoti diocesani che hanno lasciato le proprie diocesi e comunità religiose in Iraq per emigrare e trasferirsi all'estero senza il consenso dei superiori, assumendo incarichi pastorali presso le comunità caldee nella diaspora.
La pubblicazione del Decreto – avverte il Patriarca Louis Raphael I – è stata preceduta dalle dovute consultazioni con il Sinodo permanente della Chiesa caldea e con la Congregazione per le Chiese orientali, e arriva dopo “numerosi e purtroppo sterili ultimatum e tentativi” messi in atto in passato dalle precedenti autorità della Chiesa e delle comunità religiose, per mettere un freno al deplorevole fenomeno, che ha causato scandalo tra i fedeli della Chiesa caldea.

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mercoledì, ottobre 22, 2014


Bishop: 90% of Orthodox Christians in Iraq displaced

By Al Monitor
Ghassan Rifi

Greek Orthodox Bishop for Baghdad, Kuwait and their surroundings, Ghattas Hazim, realizes that the position assigned to him by the Holy Synod of Antioch, presided over by Patriarch John X Yazigi as patron of that diocese (the area under supervision of a bishop), is not easy.

Hazim is also aware that his mission might be legendary, and requires great effort to heal the wounds of the Christians in this Arab region, especially in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq. This mission started in 1991, during Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, and continues today under different forms. The mission is to provide suitable circumstances to secure the Christians in their land and maintain the Christian presence and, in particular, the Orthodox presence in Mesopotamia.

Hazim is from the town of Mhardeh in the countryside of Hama, in Syria, which is home to over 20,000 Christians. He is the nephew of the late Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim. He was supposed to join his new diocese before the end of this year, where Yazigi would appoint him in his position, and he would preside over the Orthodox diocese in Kuwait.
Hazim emphasized the necessity of not making the Christians in Iraq feel alone. He described the priests of the parishes there as heroes and true fighters, since they never left the Orthodox residents, but cared for them and sought to answer all their needs despite the difficult circumstances.
Hazim revealed shocking figures to As-Safir about the Orthodox presence in Iraq. He said only 30 families out of 600 remain in Baghdad; the rest were displaced following the invasion of Kuwait, and there are fewer than 10 families left in Mosul.
In Iraq’s Basra, all the Orthodox families have been displaced after members of the families were killed or threatened. Indeed, over 90% of the Orthodox Christians in Iraq have been displaced due to the security chaos which has prevailed over the country for the past generation. Hazim hopes that Erbil, in the Kurdish region of Iraq, would be a haven for Christians since it looked like a promising region due to the size of the economic and trade investment, and since it “welcomes our sons who move there from all over Iraq, Syria and Lebanon,” Hazim said.
“The Orthodox confession is recognized in the Iraqi law and constitution,” Hazim said. “Our situation there is similar to our situation in Lebanon and Syria. We have two churches, a school, which is considered one of the most prominent schools in Baghdad, in addition to a retirement home and an orphanage, a center for sports, cultural and educational activities.”
He said, “Speaking from a distance regarding the prevailing situation there is difficult. As soon as I go there and review the reality of the situation I will be able to set strategies and specify the priorities which would serve our people and parish, and help them to remain in their land.”
Hazim said, “The return of those who have been displaced back to their homes is linked to the political and security situation. We cannot urge anyone to go back now, in light of this ongoing war in different regions in Iraq.”
On the subject of whether or not the West is contributing in emptying Iraq of its Christians due to the facilities it is providing, Hazim said, “It is not true that the West is facilitating the emigration of Christians. I know many Christians and Orthodox in particular who went to embassies and did not get visas. Others resorted to the United Nations and other international organizations in order to emigrate and it did not work out.”
Hazim believes that Christians are being slaughtered in Iraq and the West does not lift a finger to protect them. What France provided was simply “out of duty.”
Hazim’s concerns are not limited to the possibility of changing the Christian presence in Iraq; they also include the fear of changing the Arab region as a whole. He said he fears for the civilization of Mesopotamia and the Euphrates, “We have a strong heritage, since before Christianity and during Christianity and Islam. This heritage is in danger and we see that through the violation of shrines and all other cultural sites. We fear for the culture of acceptance and coexistence because it is in danger as well.”
“I do not believe division is the right way of thinking, since Islam is also in danger. I do not believe that today’s campaign is against Christians alone; Islam is a divergent religion which is also threatened,” he said.
Despite all of this danger, Hazim urges against panic. “We are a main element in this region’s culture; Christians and Muslims from all confessions are threatened.”
“I will carry the word of God to my parish in Baghdad and Kuwait: Fear not, little flock, for I am with you. If they persecute you, remember that they persecuted me before you. We will not fear, because this is not the first time in history that this has happened. We will stay, as long as faith remains and as long as our God exists, we will remain present,” he said.

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