martedì, settembre 09, 2014

 

Chaldean Patriarch Calls On Catholics Worldwide To Help Prevent Extinction Of Iraqi Christians

By Archdiocese of Sydney

In an unprecedented move, Iraq's Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon and spiritual leader of Assyrian Catholics has personally emailed each of Australia's Catholic bishops as well as Catholic leaders worldwide in a bid to prevent the extinction of Iraq's Christian community.

In his email the Chaldean Patriarch, Louis Raphael Sako calls on fellow Catholics to help to create a strong and hopeful future for Iraq's beleaguered Christians. His request is not for a safe haven in a foreign lands for Iraq's persecuted Christians but instead to enable them to return to the Iraqi villages and towns that have been their home since the dawn of Christianity.

Dating back to the earliest days of Christianity, Iraq's Christian communities are in danger of being wiped out either by bloodthirsty slaughter at the hands of ISIS extremists or by displacement as thousands are now fleeing their homeland in a desperate bid for safety.

For many years the numbers of Christians living in Iraq, long considered one of the cradles of Christianity, have continued to decline. In 1987 Christians in Iraq represented 8 percent of the population with an estimated 1.4 million Christians. After the Gulf War and other military incursions, Christians accounted for just 5 percent of the population, but still numbered over 1 million.

After the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the most recent Iraq war, the Christian population has fallen sharply and at the beginning of this year stood at just 450,000. With the rise of ISIS and Islamic extremist militias and the mass extermination of Christians in the North Iraqi city of Mosul and adjacent villages where hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee, this number has been reduced even further.

"What hurts us most is the inability of the machinery of the (Iraqi) Government to impose law and order in front of the ongoing and significant deterioration of security which fosters a culture of violence that provides the extremist groups a favourable locale to expand," the Patriarch, who is spiritual leader of Assyrian Catholics, writes in his email to Australia's bishops.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has condemned what is happening in Iraq, and the persecution and slaughter of Christians and religious minorities, with Bishop Comensoli speaking out against what he called the "horrific and barbaric acts" of the Islamic extremists two weeks ago.

"This evil and horrendous action taking place in the Middle East is not in the name of religion," he said describing ISIS and what it stood for as an ideology of evil.

Now the Chaldean Patriarch is letting the world know not only that Christians are being persecuted, tortured and killed not only by ISIS but by rampaging gangs and mobs in the nation's capital, with a weak government in Baghdad doing little or nothing stop this. Christians are being kidnapped in armoured cars with shaded windows in broad daylight, he writes. With no retribution or fear of arrest, Christians are being threatened the moment they leave their houses with others harassed at some of Baghdad's schools as well as in many of the city's public offices.

"The people are suffering and the politicians are fighting for positions instead of being united to identify the causes that lead to extremism, violence and injustice, and to seek radical solutions before it is too late," the Patriarch says. While he hopes the new Prime Minister and new Government will recognise this as an integral part of its "historical, national and moral responsibility" he like the rest of the world is unsure this will happen.

Patriarch Sako, who wrote to the Holy Father Pope Francis last month warning of the unfolding Christian tragedy in Iraq, says thousands of Christians and Yazidi minorities in Northern Iraq have been robbed of everything they own, including all their official documents and have been forced to flee ahead of the ruthless advance of ISIS extremists intent on creating an Islamic Caliphate across Syria and Iraq.

"In the absence of an immediate solution, Iraqi's displaced Christians face an unknown future with many of them now in pursuit of a safe country in the West because in their own country of Manna and Quail only disaster prevails," the Patriarch writes.

Instead he urges Iraqi Christians to face the current situation with courage and hope in their hearts, with active and lively Christian communities helping to construct a strong future form themselves and their families.

"The world's challenges of life are faced with courage not cowardice," he says and reiterates his strong belief that for Iraq's Christians, emigration should not be seen as a solution.

In his individual emails to the world's Catholic bishops, the Patriarch gives an eight-point plan he believes will help save Iraqi Christians from becoming extinct. Under this plan, he calls for competent political and independent Christian organisations to be formed with a qualified staff equipped to analyse and study the situation in Iraq, and come up with proposals and solutions not only in light of the current crisis but also in what may happen in the future.

He also calls for a Crisis Management Team to prepare an accurate statistical record of the displaced families in order to claim compensation from the government for the damages and loss of (Christian) properties, and to help specific cases with solutions and recommendations.

In addition, the Patriarch would like to see an Education Committee established to keep track of the academic status and numbers of displaced Iraqi students, and to ask the Government of Kurdistan to host them in its schools and universities lest these students lose their scholastic future. He adds that the numbers of such students is low and could easily be absorbed into the universities of Kurdistan.

At an international level the Patriarch requests the United Nations and other sponsor countries to help in the construction of decent suitable housing complexes for those wishing to return to their villages instead of what he calls "the current inappropriate tents."

He also urges Catholic leaders to join with him in appealing to the UN Security Council to form a UN peacekeeping force in collaboration with the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga for liberating the Nineveh Plain and for providing adequate security allowing those Christians and others who have been displaced to return to the villages where they and their families have lived for thousands of years.

Patriarch Sako would also like local police forces established in the Nineveh Plain to protect these villages and hopes that a law will be passed by the new Government so that social interaction between Christians and their fellow Iraqi citizens of other faiths can resume.

The Chaldean Patriarch writes that the UN Human Rights Council must also be asked to begin investigations into the human rights violations in Iraq by establishing  a commission of inquiry into the atrocities and crimes committed by the so-called "Islamic State" and to bring to justice those responsible behind these "crimes against humanity."

In his email he wants the voices of Christians worldwide to continue to be raised against extremists and to work to create a new mentality of living together so that Shiites, Sunnites, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Christians and Yezidis can live together in peace and harmony.

For this to happen,  it is vital that offensive action be taken at an ideological level against the Islamic world to stop ISIS' veneer of religious legitimacy and financing and sending of foreign militants to fight against Christians and the Iraqi people on their behalf.

"We urge the Central Iraq Government and the Regional Government of Kurdistan to spread the culture of openness, diversity, plurality and equality in the face of a culture of extremism, elimination, marginalisation and social backwardness along with a weak individual and collective consciousness of its deficiency," he writes and firmly believes this can only be achieved through education and by changing Iraq's school and university curricula.

"Only education can commence this transformation and the building of a society where equality of each citizen is recognised and succeeds," he says.

 

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