7 August 2014
Kurdish “peshmerga” troops stand guard against Islamic State militants on the outskirts of the province of Ninevah, Iraq, on 6 Aug. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Early this morning, we learned that the fighters of ISIS (the Islamic State) have conquered all the Christian villages around Mosul in the Nineveh Plain — namely Qaraqosh, Talkeif, Tel Eskof, Qaramlesh, Bartella and Al Qosh.
I talked to Archbishop Yohanna Boutros Moshe of Mosul, whose eparchy includes these ancient Christian villages, and he informed me that tens of thousands of Christians left their homes in the middle of the night and fled to the Christian quarter of Erbil, Ain Kawa, following the invasion of the Jihadists and the withdrawal of the Kurdish forces (Peshmerga), who were defending the villages. Erbil, home to some 50,000 Christians as well as some 30,000 displaced from Mosul, is located 19 miles southeast of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which was captured by ISIS in June.
The archbishop said the commander of the Peshmerga in Qaraqosh told church leaders on Wednesday that the forces were abandoning their posts in Qaraqosh, Tel Eskof and Qaramlesh. The withdrawal of the Kurdish forces came following clashes between the Peshmerga and the militants of the Islamic State on Wednesday in the town of Makhmur near Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish semi-autonomous zone.
Archbishop Moshe said that less than 10,000 Christians (out of 100,000) remained in Qaraqosh and surrounding villages; the remaining 90,000 have left at night by buses and private cars. He also informed me that tens of thousands of Christians are still waiting on the border at Erbil to get the permission to enter the city.
Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, Yousif Mirkis, told the news agency, AFP: “It’s a catastrophe, a tragic situation. We call on the UN Security Council to immediately intervene. Tens of thousands of terrified people are being displaced as we speak, it cannot be described.”
The ISIS advance means jihadists are now within striking distance — in some areas just a few miles — from the border of the Kurdish Regional Government and its capital, Erbil.
Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, Louis Raphael, has issued an urgent S.O.S. from Baghdad on Thursday. In an open letter, he wrote:
“An exodus, a real via crucis [Way of the Cross], of Christians are walking on foot in Iraq’s searing summer heat toward Kurdish cities ... they are facing a human catastrophe and risk a real genocide. They need water, food, shelter. We appeal with sadness and pain to the conscience of all people of good will and the United States and the European Union, to save these innocent persons from death. We hope it is not too late!”
Against this backdrop, Pope Francis issued his own appeal for peace just a few hours later. According to Reuters, in a statement issued by the Holy See:
“His Holiness addresses an urgent appeal to the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway, to act to protect those affected or threatened by violence and to provide aid, especially for the most urgent needs of the many who have been forced to flee and who depend on the solidarity of others.”
For more on the deepening crisis in Iraq:
“Nobody Can Imagine How Terrible It Is”
Christians Flee Islamist Attacks in Northern Iraq
And to learn how you can help, please visit this link.
7 August 2014
During our journey to the Holy Land with Catholic Women’s League of Canada members in July, we visited some places that Pope Francis had visited during his pastoral visit to the Holy Land from 24-26 May 2014. It was special to follow in his footsteps, praying where he prayed and hearing the stories of people who had encountered him. I thought I’d give you a taste of it through pictures.
Jordan River: We visited the Baptism site on the Israeli side of the Jordan River, where Pope Francis prayed and met with refugees, the sick and disabled. At this place, we renewed our baptismal vows.
Bethlehem: His Holiness Francis stopped spontaneously at the wall separating Israel and Palestine and silently prayed. We also took a moment to pray at this spot.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Pope Francis met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, their predecessors.
Western Wall: Pope Francis prayerfully placed intentions in the wall and embraced his Argentinian friends, Jewish Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud. We also offered our prayer intentions here.
Yad Vashem: We visited the Hall of Remembrance where the pope gave an impassioned speech which began with “Adam, where are you?”
Upper Room: Before leaving the Holy Land, His Holiness celebrated Mass in the Upper Room. We prayed together in this room, where the Last Supper took place and where the Holy Spirit descended upon the Twelve Apostles at Pentecost.
7 August 2014
Tags: CNEWA Pope Francis Holy Land Pilgrimage/pilgrims CNEWA Canada
A Lebanese army soldier carries a young refugee fleeing the violence in Syria in the Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon, on 6 August. (photo: CNS/Hassan Abdallah, Reuters)
7 August 2014
Tags: Syria Lebanon Syrian Civil War Refugees
Reporters present a video “notebook” collecting the sights and sounds behind the stories of war. (video: Al Jazeera)
Briefing U.N. Assembly, Ban urges end to ‘senseless cycle of suffering’ in Gaza (U.N. News Center) As the temporary ceasefire continues to hold in Gaza, senior United Nations officials today urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, and called on the 193 Member States to respond to calls for emergency humanitarian funding. In an informal meeting of the General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that for the moment, the near constant firing of Hamas rockets and Israeli missiles and mortars has subsided. “But … we cannot rest as the suffering continues. This ceasefire has come at a price that is almost too much to bear,” said Mr. Ban…
Patriarchs decry Christian exodus, demand U.N. act (Daily Star Lebanon) The heads of Eastern churches expressed outrage Thursday over the displacement of Christians in north Iraq, appealing to the international community, and Arab and Islamic states in particular, to take swift action to stop the onslaught at the hands of jihadist groups. “We call upon the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference, the U.N. Security Council and the International Criminal Court to take swift, effective and immediate salvaging action,” the patriarchs said in a statement. “The United Nations is requested to take a firm decision to ensure the return of the people to their lands by all possible means and in the quickest possible time…”
Isis seizes Iraq’s largest Christian town (The Guardian) Jihadists have taken over Iraq’s largest Christian town, Qaraqosh, and the surrounding areas sending tens of thousands of residents fleeing towards autonomous Kurdistan, according to officials and witnesses. Islamic State (Isis) militants moved in overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish peshmerga troops, who are stretched thin across several fronts in Iraq, residents said. “I now know that the towns of Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella and Karamlesh have been emptied of their original population and are now under the control of the militants,” Joseph Thomas, the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, told AFP…
Pope asks for international action to help Iraq’s persecuted Christians (CNS) Pope Francis asked Catholics around the world to pray for tens of thousands of Christians from villages in northeastern Iraq who were forced from their homes in the middle of the night by Islamic State militants. The pope also made a “pressing appeal to the international community to take initiatives to put an end to the humanitarian drama underway, to take steps to protect those involved and threatened by violence and to ensure the necessary aid for so many displaced people whose fate depends on the solidarity of others,” the Vatican spokesman said on 7 August…
Jordan ‘refuses’ Palestinians fleeing Syria conflict (BBC) Jordan is turning away Palestinian refugees from Syria in violation of international law, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch says. It is said to have forcibly repatriated more than 100 asylum seekers, including women and children, since mid-2012. Most of the Palestinians come from refugee camps or villages in Syria that have experienced heavy fighting. It appears that Jordan fears an influx of Syrian Palestinians would cause instability…
Poland, Hungary recall Roma holocaust (Vatican Radio) While Europe remembers the outbreak of World War I, commemorations have been held in Hungary and Poland for what often has been called the “forgotten Holocaust”: the murder of hundreds of thousands of Roma people during World War II…
6 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Roma
A contact sent us the following message:
Date: August 6, 2014
Subject: Report from Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq
This report was sent to us by Ms. Christina Patto, VP Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq. Here what she wrote:
Here is our report and some of our testimony concerning the events happening now in North of Iraq.
It is a tragic situation, nobody can imagine how terrible it is, as much as I write to you and send you reports it will not be enough to describe the suffering of people.
For Zummar and Sinjar: they are under Da’esh control, thousands of Yazidis died in the last two days, they are facing a real genocide. Till yesterday (45) children died of thirst. Some families throw their children from the top of Sinjar mountain in order not to see them die from hunger or thirst, or not to be taken by the terrorists. (1500) men were killed in front of their wives and families, (50) old men died also from thirst and illness. More than (70) girl and women (including Christians) were taken, raped and being captured and sold. More than (100) families are captured in Tel afar airport.
There is about (50) Christian families in Sinjar. The terrorists were able to control the Syriac church there and cover the Cross with their black banner. Till now we do not know anything about those Christian families.
For Nineveh Plain:
As a reason to the continuous bombing on Telkeif, Deacon (Lujain Hikmat Nano) died, most of the families left their houses and would leave one member of the family in the house, but this tragic led to an exodus from Telkeif. the same thing happened in Shekhan and the surrounded villages (shekhan center, Karanjo, Dashqotan and Ein biqri).
Ba’ashiqa: an exodus from there because there was boming and battles near Ba’ashiqa as the terrorists are trying to control that area too. Ba’ashiqa Monastory is being evacuated from the inhabitants and from IDPs.
Ein Sifni: an exodus of the Yazidi families which forced the christian families to flee too.
Mosul Falls are now under the control of the terrorist, these fall are about (10-15 Km) from Ein sifni.
Batnaye and Tellisquf: also an exodus because of the threats and bad circumstances they are going through.
Our Dorm, the empty houses in the villages, the halls of the churches, school and mosques are full of IDPs and in very bad conditions. I cannot give you the exact number of those families. Also it is very hard to describe their needs in food baskets only, on one can imagine this tragedy, one may cry to see those people in this situation.
Concerning Zakho and Center Duhok: Till now they are under the KRG control.
pls excuse my chaotic writing and expression, we are all in a bad situation.
So, according to my above report, you can decide what kind of aid you can offer.
Please help us support these families suffering violence beyond comprehension, and please keep them in your prayers.
6 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Yazidi Iraqi
From the Daily Star:
Jihadists have launched fresh attacks on Christian areas in north Iraq, sparking a new wave of displacement, the country’s Chaldean patriarch and witnesses said Wednesday.
Towns shelled in the past few days by Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militants include Tal Kayf, Bartella and Qaraqosh, according to Christian sources.
The towns are among many in the area where thousands of Christians who were forced to abandon their homes in the main northern city of Mosul last month had found refuge.
Some of them are less than 50 kilometers away from Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan.
Chaldean patriarch Louis Raphael I said at least one man had been killed by mortar fire, naming him as Lajin Hekmat, an employee of the main church in Tal Kayf, just north of Mosul.
Read the full story here.
6 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Iraqi
Chaldean Bishop Frank Kalabat carries a monstrance on 1 August as he leads nearly 1,000 Chaldean Catholics outside Mother of God Chaldean Church in Southfield, Michigan in praying for for persecuted Iraqi Christians. (photo: CNS/Mike Stechschulte, The Michigan Catholic)
Chaldean Catholics in Michigan last week gathered to pray for suffering Christians in Iraq:
Standing in the sanctuary of Mother of God Chaldean Cathedral, flanked by an empty cross and two ominous red symbols, Chaldean Bishop Francis Kalabat led more than 1,000 people on 1 August in an earnest prayer for peace and a plea for help. The bright red symbols were the Arabic letter that stands for “Nassara” or “Nazarene” — meaning Christian, and they were ominous because Islamic militants have used the symbol to identify some 200,000 Iraqis singled out for an ultimatum: Convert to Islam, pay a tax or be killed. Painted on the targets’ houses, the symbol is intended by the militants to be a derogatory term. But Bishop Kalabat said he wears it with honor. “This is the latest image today of what has been endured for us as the cross,” he said, pointing to the wooden crucifix behind him. Bishop Kalabat, who in June was ordained the second bishop of the Southfield-based Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, urged those in attendance to keep their focus on Jesus, and to unite their sufferings with him. In a powerful address to the overflowing congregation, which included several local media outlets, Bishop Kalabat acknowledged the difficulty in forgiving those who unjustly persecute and kill Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere. But the bishop said forgiveness does not mean Christians should not also pray and ask for justice, including from elected leaders. He called on the United Nations and international community to condemn the violence as genocide and said humanitarian aid was badly needed for Iraqi refugees, many of whom have found temporary protection from the Kurdish army after fleeing their homes in northern and central Iraqi cities such as Mosul.
To help provide humanitarian aid to Iraqi refugees, visit this link.
6 August 2014
Tags: Iraq Middle East Christians Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians Iraqi
The Chermera (or “40 Men”) Temple, a Yazidi holy site, occupies the highest peak of the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq. (photo: an American soldier from the 334th Signal Company, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, April 2004)
Iraqi Yazidis stranded on isolated mountaintop begin to die of thirst (Washington Post) Stranded on a barren mountaintop, thousands of minority Iraqis are faced with a bleak choice: descend and risk slaughter at the hands of the encircled Sunni extremists or sit tight and risk dying of thirst. Humanitarian agencies said Tuesday that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians remain trapped on Mount Sinjar since being driven out of surrounding villages and the town of Sinjar two days earlier. But the mountain that had looked like a refuge is becoming a graveyard for their children…
Iraq’s Islamists have vowed to wipe out the Yazidis (Christian Science Monitor) The arrival of the Islamic State (IS) in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar over the weekend sent the native religious minority fleeing. Yazidis, labeled by IS (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIS) “devil worshippers,” have a long history of persecution. Who are the Yazidis? Yazidis (sometimes spelled Yezidis), belong to an ethno-religious group which predates Islam and has roots in Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic religion that developed in ancient Persia around 600 B.C. (an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the estimated time of the faith’s founding). Yazidis have been described as a “Kurdish heterodox group,” meaning that they’re ethnic Kurds, but outside the mainstream of the community and culture…
Baghdad: Iraqi Christians and Muslims pray together for peace and freedom (AsiaNews) Amid tragedy, Iraq’s Christians and Muslims came together to pray for peace. With the slogan “There is no Iraq without Christians,” St. George Church in Baghdad hosted a meeting last night, an opportunity to meet on the eve of the feast of the Transfiguration and the World Day of Prayer for Iraq, celebrated today. Muslim civil society leaders, officials from Baghdad and neighboring cities, Christian leaders and ordinary believers gathered in the church to pray for peace and revive the desire for “unity and solidarity” in the country…
Syrians left to fend for themselves as world agenda focuses on Gaza (Haaretz) If June was Iraq’s month, July belongs to the Palestinians, even though that month saw hundreds die in Iraq and over 1,500 Syrians killed in a single week in July — slightly higher than the Palestinian death toll. Syria, though, has been pushed to the bottom of the world’s list of priorities. No new diplomatic endeavors were launched to solve the crisis there this month. The international commissions discussing the Syrian civil war have gone on summer recess. The American aid totaling a half a billion dollars for the rebels is waiting for Congress’ approval. With over 3 million refugees the humanitarian crisis is far from a solution. Even the fact that the Islamic State has taken over parts of Syria and Iraq is quickly becoming the accepted as the new reality…
Tens of thousands of besieged Syrians receive food aid for first time (U.N. News Center) More people in besieged and difficult-to-reach areas of Syria are getting food due to a Security Council resolution approved last month that allows delivery trucks to more easily cross borders and conflict lines, the United Nations emergency food agency today confirmed. The U.N. World Food Program said it has made “significant progress” over the previous few weeks, reaching 3.7 million people in July. More than 300,000 of those people are in hard-to-reach areas, said spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs, a figure that is “twice the number of people reached using cross-line convoys in June…”
Gaza: Israeli-Palestinian indirect talks begin in Cairo (BBC) Indirect talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives are taking place in the Egyptian capital Cairo. They come after a four-week conflict in Gaza that has claimed more than 1,900 lives. Egyptian mediators are shuttling between the two delegations, relaying each side’s demands. A 72-hour truce is now in its second day in Gaza, the longest lull in fighting since the conflict began on 8 July…
Bloody clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia over disputed territory (The Guardian) The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia are expected to meet for talks this week to try to calm tensions over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh after some of the bloodiest clashes since the two sides signed a ceasefire in 1994. Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said 14 of its soldiers had been killed in multiple confrontations, which began on 30 July. According to Azeri news agency APA, Armenian reconnaissance groups tried to cross the contact line along the border, and Azeri armed forces responded…
5 August 2014
Tags: Syria Iraq Israeli-Palestinian conflict Iraqi Refugees Yazidi
The new Melkite Greek Catholic archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth, and all Galilee, George Bakhouny, blesses those gathered for his installation in the Cathedral of Mar Elias in Haifa. (photo: Sami El-Yousef)
5 August 2014
Tags: Israel Catholic Melkite Greek Catholic Church Holy Land Christians Melkite
Tens of thousands of people from the Yazidi community fled their homes in northern Iraq on Sunday, after Islamic militants attacked the towns of Sinjar and Zunmar. (video: USA Today)
Islamic extremists impose reign of terror on Iraq (U.S.A. Today) Police cars have been repainted to say “Islamic police.” Women are forbidden from wearing bright colors and prints. The homes of Shiites and others have signs stating they are property of the Islamic State. And everyone walks in fear amid a new reign of terror. This is what life is like in Mosul, Tikrit and other cities in northern and western Iraq under the control of Islamic extremists after their lightning-fast military campaign that overwhelmed the Iraqi army in June…
Displaced Iraqi Christians from Mosul face humanitarian crisis (Vatican Radio) The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has called for an end to the violent persecution of Iraqi Christians that threatens to extinguish their community. The bishops are also urging Catholics to join in a global day of prayer for Iraq’s Christians taking place on Wednesday, 6 August…
Baghdad patriarch: Iraqi Christian tragedy rooted in superpowers’ selfishness (AsiaNews) The international community and the world’s superpowers must realize the need for “concrete actions of solidarity” for Iraqi Christians because the “very survival” of the minority in the country and in middle East is at stake, said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I of Baghdad in a message to Pope Francis, eastern patriarchs and the presidents of bishops’ conferences. Faced with a never-ending tragedy, the patriarch of Baghdad addresses directly world powers, asking them to drop their “self-interest” and join together to achieve a “peaceful political solution” that alone can put an end to the conflict…
Gaza: No place to bury the dead (Al Jazeera) Corpses of dead Palestinians have overwhelmed morgues at Rafah’s hospitals, and relatives have been left with no option but to keep their loved-ones in commercial refrigerators. At the city’s Kuwaiti hospital on Monday, a stream of ambulances negotiated its way through crowds of medical staff and families, delivering bodies to be laid out on the gravel outside the building…
Gaza war stifles democracy in Israel (Al Monitor) The current Israel-Hamas conflict has generated an aggressive political patriotic discourse in Israel that has taken a heavy toll on Israeli democracy, in which those who dare to oppose the operation are expected to keep silent…
The quest to save Syria’s history (Der Spiegel) While the civil war in Syria has killed tens of thousands of people, it has also destroyed countless of the country’s ancient treasures. Now a number of Syrians are trying to save what artifacts they can — and are risking their lives to do so…
Tags: Iraq Syrian Civil War Cultural Identity Iraqi Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict