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Christian Patriarchs Denounce Silence on Persecution in Mideast

11 Aug 2014 – By Doreen Abi Raad

BEIRUT (CNS) — Mideast Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs denounced the “total international silence” on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and called for Muslim religious authorities to issue fatwas, or legal edicts, banning attacks against Christians and “other innocents.”

The prelates met on 7 August at the summer seat of the Maronite Catholic Church in Diman for a special summit to address the crisis facing Christians in Iraq and Syria. Their statement was issued before the U.S. authorized targeted airstrikes against Islamist insurgents in northern Iraq if they threaten American personnel.

“We strongly deplore the expulsion of our sons from Mosul and Ninevah, regions that were known for religious coexistence,” the patriarchs said in a statement following their meeting.

They stressed that the expulsion of all Christians from the region was not voluntary displacement to seek a temporary escape from death but rather “was planned by the organization of the Islamic State … and other jihadi groups that forced them to abandon their homes solely because of their religious affiliation, in direct violation of all agreements and international charters.”

“This unjust decision made on behalf of Islam is a serious setback for the Arab and Islamic region,” they said.

The night of 6-7 August, Iraq’s largest Christian town, Qaraqosh, near Mosul, and surrounding villages on the Ninevah Plains fell to the Islamic State, resulting in the exodus of nearly 100,000 Christians. Mosul was captured by Islamic State forces in June, also resulting in an exodus of Christians.

Many ethnic Yezidi, squeezed between the Kurds and the advancing Islamic State fighters and the Syrian army, have had to flee their homes in the middle of a punishing Iraqi summer with little but the clothes they wore.

The patriarchs stressed that they are not asking for protection of Christians.

“We have rights and we believe it is the duty of international organizations to maintain their credibility and prohibit forced demographic change imposed on Christians and other religious communities.”

The patriarchs said they were “appalled by … the growing of religious extremism” in the region. They called on countries that “support, organize and arm terrorist organizations to stop their activities,” warning that religious extremism “will have negative consequences on those who did not resist it.” They also said it was important to find out who was financing the extremists.

The patriarchs criticized the “weak, timid and inadequate” response of Islamic, Arab and international circles, a stance they said “does not reflect the seriousness of this phenomenon and its repercussions on the historical demographic diversity of the peoples of the region.”

“We call upon the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the U.N. Security Council and the International Criminal Court to take swift, effective and immediate salvaging action,” the statement said.

“We appeal to the Islamic authorities — Sunni and Shiite — to issue fatwas banning attacks on Christians and other innocent people and their property,” the patriarchs said.

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Tags: Middle East Christians Violence against Christians Christianity Patriarchs religious freedom