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Congress Clashes With Trump Administration Over Aid for Iraqi Assyrians

Two young Assyrians fled with their families from Islamic State’s held Mosul to Koysinjaq, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo Flickr christiaantriebert

AL Monitor  By Bryant: Harris Disappointed with United Nations efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Iraqi minorities, Congress is calling on the Trump administration to bypass the world body and provide assistance directly to Christians and other genocide victims.

Even as the Islamic State (IS) loses its last grasp on Iraq, the group’s Yazidi and Christian victims are clamoring for a boost in US support so they can rebuild their lives. They complain that ethnic minorities are having trouble accessing the $1.3 billion that the United States allocated for humanitarian aid to Iraq in 2017, and have turned to Congress for help.

Testifying at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week, a former Yazidi sex slave who goes by the pseudonym Shireen warned that IS’ genocidal campaign will succeed without international help. The hearing aimed to hasten congressional action on the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, which would authorize the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to fund faith-based entities providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqi and Syrian genocide and war crime victims rather than funnel the money through UN agencies.

Read the full story here.

Iraqis return to church destroyed by ISIS

Nov. 13, 2016: Iraqi Christian citizens check the St. Addai church which was damaged by Islamic State fighters during their occupation of Keramlis village, less than 18 miles southeast of Mosul.  (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Nov. 13, 2016: Iraqi Christian citizens check the St. Addai church which was damaged by Islamic State fighters during their occupation of Keramlis village, less than 18 miles southeast of Mosul. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

There were gasps, followed by tears at a small church in northern Iraq as a group of Christians returned to their parish Sunday to find that everything had been destroyed, including the statue of the Virgin Mary, which Islamic State (ISIS) militants had decapitated before they left.

A confessional had been turned into a closet, a tomb had been desecrated, red prayer benches were burned. As the Rev. Thabet Habib recited prayers at the St. Addai church, the sound of broken glass crunched beneath worshippers’ feet.

Keramlis, a Christian town on the Nineveh plains in northern Iraq, fell to ISIS in August 2014, two months after the extremist group took Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and surrounding areas, sending most of its inhabitants fleeing. The town was retaken by Iraq forces three weeks ago as part of the push for Mosul, but most of its homes were destroyed in the process. READ MORE

The Cross, deemed illegal by IS, returns to Iraq’s Nineveh Plain

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Fr. Ammar, another priest and two soldiers stand by a newly erected cross on the roof of Tahira church (church of the Immaculate, Syriac Catholic) in Qaraqosh, a Christian village liberated from IS. World Watch Monitor

(World Watch Monitor) There were tears, soldiers praying, priests singing. This was the moment thousands of Iraqi Christians had been waiting for: the Cross, symbol of Christ’s victory over evil, deemed illegal by IS, had returned to the Christian villages in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain.

This came as news continues to emerge of more villages reclaimed from the Islamic State (IS), and more signs of destruction become apparent.

As soon as it was remotely safe, the priests got into a car and were escorted back to their villages. In Christian villages like Karamles and Qaraqosh – half an hour’s drive east of Mosul – they were among the first non-combatants to return now the villages have been liberated from IS occupation.

Father Thabet, who lives with his congregation in a complex for internally displaced people in Erbil, brought a Cross, the size of a man, covered with flowers, with him when he returned to his home village of Karamles.

“I am so happy I can do this. I’m smiling from cheek to cheek and I weep tears of joy at the same time. This is the trip I have been praying for, for two years now,” he said.

He climbed Barbara Hill, next to his village, and planted the Cross firmly in the ground overlooking Karamles.

“My dream is to bring all the Christians back to this village. Then we will worship outside on Barbara Hill; we will have the Eucharist in the open air. Everybody will see that this is the Church; this is the Body of Christ; this is Christian land. That is my dream – to give a testimony to the world,” he said.

When he arrived in Karamles, Fr. Thabet found his church had been heavily damaged by IS but was still standing. The Cross has been taken off and thrown to the ground. The inside of the church was a mess, but it’s not beyond repair. Fears that the Christian village would be completely uninhabitable have proven to be unfounded.

‘What counts is that we can pray here again’

The same goes for the village of Qaraqosh, visited by Father Ammar. He reinstated the Cross on his church, helped by Christian soldiers guarding the village after it had been liberated.

Five Middle Eastern Patriarchs Visit North Iraq in Solidarity With Christians – no to sectarian militias

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From left: Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II Karim, Patriarch Louis Rafael Sako, Patriarch Bechara Boutros AlRai, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Youna, Patriarch Gregorius III Lahham. Photo from AINA

(AINA) — Five patriarchs of Middle Eastern Churches visited north Iraq yesterday to support the Assyrian Christians, who have been driven from their homes and villages by the Islamic State (ISIS) and whose religious institutions have been destroyed and occupied.

The Patriarchs were:

  • Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros AlRai
  • Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church Ignatius Ephrem II Karim
  • Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Rafael Sako
  • Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorius III Lahham
  • Syriac Catholic Patriarch Mor Ignatius Joseph III Youna

The delegation was flown to Arbel in a private jet donated by the former president of the Industrialists Association, Jacques Sarraf.

Accompanying the Patriarchs were Harith Shihab, member of the Islamic-Christian dialogue committee, Father Paul Karam, head of Caritas Lebanon, Monsignor Joseph AlBawary, Director of the Catholic Information Center and Father Abdo Abu Kasem.

The delegation was received at the airport by the KRG Minister of Interior Karim Sinjari, the Governor of Arbel Nozad Hadi and a number of officials.

The Delegation’s first stop was the city of Ankawa, where 70,000 Assyrians have sought refuge, swelling the city’s population to 100,000. The next stop was the headquarters of the Chaldean Diocese and Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese in Arbel, where the delegation was briefed on the situation of the refugees.

The mission of the Patriarchs is to assess the state of the refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain and to formulate a plan to deliver aid, as well as pressure Western and Middle Eastern governments to commit to returning the refugees to their homes.

The Patriarchs offered prayers as they visited the refugees and together recited the Lord’s Prayer in Syriac (Aramaic), the language of Jesus Christ.

Patriarch AlRai said the Assyrian Christian refugees are the indigenous people and he does not call them a minority, because this is their land and they must return to it.

Absent from the delegation was the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Dinkha IV, who could not travel because of ill health. -AINA

Erbil (Agenzia Fides) – The defense of the attacked is an absolute right. But only “the forces of the State should take charge of this defense”, while the creation of differentiated militia on ethno-religious basis “can destroy Iraq”.
This is how – according to Lebanese sources – the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I expressed himself during his participation in the initiatives and meetings organized by the Delegation of the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches that arrived on Wednesday, August 20 in Erbil, capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, to express their closeness to refugees from Mosul and other cities which have fallen under the control of the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate. On 18 August, the President of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan Masud Barzani said he was willing to provide weapons to Christian volunteers to form self-defense militias with a mandate to defend their villages currently in the hands of the jihadists. The Chaldean Patriarch also added that in the present situation, speaking in constitutional terms, the proposal to establish an autonomous area in the Nineveh Plain for Christian populations has become possible and according to him “acceptabl e”, adding that such result is obtained “through dialogue and not through conflict”.
The delegation of the Patriarchs currently on a visit to Iraq are, besides the Chaldean Patriarch, the Maronite Bechara Boutros Rai, the Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III, the Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III and Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 21/08/2014)

The Horrific Genocide of Christians in the Middle East

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The following is a statement from His Grace Bishop Suriel of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Diocese Of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions.

The world watches in silence as the last Christians are expelled from Mosul, Iraq in one of the most merciless and barbaric acts of genocide we have seen in the 21st Century.

Mosul, the cradle of Christianity in Iraq since the first centuries, is now purged of its entire Christian population. The ruthless and purposeful savagery of the attacks by the fundamentalist Muslim terrorist organization The Islamic State (IS) formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is truly inconceivable. Yet, most world leaders remain silent in the face of the murder of innocent children and horrific beheadings of civilians. We question why the media has not highlighted the unprecedented systematic eradication of the city’s entire Christian population. We also question why the Australian government have yet to comment and condemn this gross deprivation of human rights.

There is only silence.

Silence, that sends a resounding message of indifference to the murders of innocent lives at the hands of extremist Muslim groups. Silence, which attributes lesser value to the lives of Christians in the Middle East. Silence, that surrenders to the power of radicalism and the inhumane brutality of groups such as IS.

In an age where world leaders are gifted with more power and global influence than ever before, I ask why the blaring silence and apathy? The Christian Copts are being forcefully driven out of Egypt and countless churches have been destroyed. Yet there is barely any international support and protection. Our peaceful protests and appeals to the government for action have fallen on deaf ears, time and time again. We are witnessing a heinous cleansing of the entire Christian population in the Middle East by an expanding extremist Muslim terrorist group.Are we going to sit back and watch the disaster unfold, and in so doing, contribute to the crimes against humanity? The world’s silence is fuelling these extremist terrorist groups.

In Australia, we are sheltered from the inconceivable cruelty that our brothers and sisters in the Middle East are experiencing. We live in comfort and have no impediments to our human rights. However, we will not be safe from the indiscriminate and unstoppable destruction of IS and its ancillary extremist Muslim terrorist groups for long. If, as a nation, we do not take a strong stance against these crimes against humanity, it is only a matter of time before such fundamentalism infects the entire world.

Only yesterday, it was revealed that two Australians had reportedly joined IS terrorists fighting in Syria and Iraq and are wanted for alleged terrorist activities. They proudly posted photos of themselves holding up the severed heads of fighters. Is our apathy to terrorism creating a safe haven for the breeding of Islamic fundamentalists on our shores? We call upon the Australian government to take a strong stance against these disturbing developments.

Assyrian International News Agency

Recommended: Bishop Suriel’s statement closely resemble the words and warning of our Syrian contact in the previous report, The Snake Creeps As The West Sleeps. He has suffered the great loss of his family at the hands of rebels. These Islamist militants are on a mission to persecute and eradicate Christians or anyone else opposed to their ideology.

Please keep praying for strength, endurance and protection for those being persecuted. And get the word out. We cannot not remain silent!

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WOLF: Genocide Taking Place in Iraq

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Washington, D.C. (July 22, 2014) – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), long regarded as one of the leading human rights champions in Congress, today said genocide is taking place in Iraq.

Speaking on the House floor, Wolf said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.

For months, Wolf has been trying shine a bright light on what has been taking place in Iraq, as thousands of religious minorities have been forced to flee the lands they have inhabited for more than 2,000 years.  Not until ISIS last Thursday told the few remaining Christians in Mosul to leave or be killed did the world focus on what has been unfolding.

Below is the complete text of Wolf’s remarks:

“Mr. Speaker, the international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
“It says ‘genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’
“I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide.  I also believe it is a crime against humanity.
“Last Thursday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria  – more commonly referred to as ISIS – gave the few remaining Christians in Mosul until Saturday to leave or be killed.
“This from yesterday New York Times: ‘Some went on foot, their car having been confiscated; others rode bicycles or motor scooters; few were able to take anything of value, as militants seized their money and jewelry.  Some – just a few, and because they were not healthy enough to flee – submitted to the demands that they convert to Islam to avoid being killed.’
“ISIS is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.
“I want to submit for the Record the complete article from The New York Times and an editorial from today’s Wall Street Journal for history to see what is happening.
“With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country.   The patriarch Abraham came from a city in Iraq called Ur.  Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, came from northwest Iraq.  Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq, and his sons (the 12 tribes of Israel) were born in northwest Iraq.  A remarkable spiritual revival as told in the book of Jonah occurred in Nineveh.  The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq, as did the account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Iraq Attack Michigan Rally

“Monday’s New York Times piece also quotes a Muslim woman at a prayer service at St. George Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad on Sunday whispering to a Christian woman sitting in the pew next to her:  ‘You are the true original people here, we are so sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam.’
“On June 16, for the first time in 1,600 years, there was no Mass in Mosul.
“Pope Francis on Sunday expressed concern about what has unfolded in Mosul and other parts of the Middle East, noting that these communities, since the beginning of Christianity, have ‘co-existed there alongside their fellow citizens, making a significant contribution to the good of society.   Today they are persecuted.  Our brothers are persecuted, they are cast out, they are forced to leave their homes without having the chance to take anything with them.’
“The United Nations released a statement attributed to Ban Ki-moon that, in part, said:  ‘The Secretary-General reiterates that any systematic attack on the civilian population or segments of the civilian population, because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable.’

“Where is the Obama Administration?
“In June, 55 Members of Congress – Republican and Democrats – urged the Obama Administration to actively engage with the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to prioritize additional security support for especially vulnerable populations, notably Iraq’s ancient Christian community and provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those affected communities.
“I want to read the last line from our letter:
‘Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.’
“It is happening.  They are almost all gone – just as we predicted.
“The Obama Administration has to make protecting this ancient community a priority.
“It needs to encourage the Kurds to do what they can protect those fleeing ISIS and provide safe refuge.
“It needs to ensure that of the resources going to the region, a portion be guaranteed to help the Christian community.
“It needs to have the same courage as President Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell when they said genocide was taking place in Darfur.
“The United Nations has a role, too.  It should immediately initiate proceedings in the International Criminal Court against ISIS for crimes against humanity.
“The time to act is now.”

Syrian Catholic Archbishop Moshe’s appeal to the international community: Save us!

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Qaraqosh (Agenzia Fides) – Qaraqosh [The city is known by three names: Baghdede in Assyrian, Hamdaniya in Arabic and Qaraqosh in Turkish.] is almost a ghost town. More than ninety percent of the more than 40 thousand inhabitants, nearly all Christians of the Syrian Catholic Church, have fled in the past two days due to the offensive of the Sunni insurgents led by the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), that subject the urban area to launch rockets and grenades. The Archbishop of Mosul of the Syrians, Yohanna Petros Moshe, some priests and some young people of his church, are among the few left in the city.

The town in the last two days has seen the arrival of weapons and new contingents to strengthen the Kurdish Peshmerga militias that oppose the advance of the Sunni insurgents. The impression is that the ground is being prepared for a head-on collision.

Yesterday, Archbishop Moshe attempted to mediate between the opposing forces with the intent to preserve the city of Qaraqosh from being destroyed. The attempt was unsuccessful. Sunni insurgents ask the Kurdish militias to withdraw. The Kurdish Peshmerga have no intention of allowing insurgents to get close to the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan.

In this dramatic situation, from Qaraqosh Archbishop Moshe through Fides Agency wants to launch an urgent humanitarian appeal to the international community:

“Before the tragedy being experienced by our people”, the Archbishop says to Fides, “I appeal to the consciences of political leaders around the world, to international organizations and to all men of good will: it is necessary to intervene immediately to put a stop to the deterioration of the situation, working not only at a humanitarian level, but also politically and diplomatically. Every hour, every day lost, is likely to make all unrecoverable. Inaction becomes complicity with crime and abuse of power. The world cannot turn a blind eye to the tragedy of people who have fled from their homes in a few hours, taking with them only the clothes they are wearing”.

The Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul outlines with a few vibrating words the particular condition experienced by Christians in the upsurge of sectarian conflicts that are putting at risk the survival of Iraq:

“Qaraqosh and the other cities of the Nineveh Plain have been for a long time places of peace and coexistence. We Christians are unarmed, and as Christians we have not fueled any conflict or had any problem with the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and other realities that form the Iraqi country. We just want to live in peace, work with everyone and respect everyone”

The Syriac Catholic priest Nizar Semaan, Archbishop Moshe’s collaborator, told Fides that the appeal “is also addressed to Western and European governments that often speak of human rights, and sink into a comfortable silence when their operations and their analysis of the problems of the Middle East prove shortsighted and disastrous. To be clear, the Archbishop does not ask to resolve the situation by sending more weapons to the Middle East”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 27/06/2014)

VOP note: The highlighted in red above, are the exact words we have heard by persecuted Christians from the Middle East, Nigeria and Pakistan. In unity, their voices cry out. Can you hear their cries? Brothers and sisters, stand up for our own and pray!

Christians Not Target of Baghdad Bombings, Iraqi Officials Say

Damage-to-Our-Lady-of-Salvation-Syriac-Catholic-Church-in-Baghdad-Ankawa_com-photo

(Morning Star News) – Government and church officials in Iraq refuted initial claims by police that bombs in southern Baghdad targeted Christians, saying no worshippers leaving a nearby church were hurt.

A car bomb that went off near St. John Catholic Church in the Doura area of Baghdad on Dec. 25 as worshippers were leaving Mass targeted a market, not the church, according to Interior Minister spokesman Saad Maan. News portal RT reported that Iraqi Chaldean Catholic Church Bishop Louis Sako also said the church was not the target, and that none of the departing worshippers were injured.

Police had initially reported that the blast killed 27 worshippers after the Christmas Day service, and that another bomb detonated in a market in the city’s Christian area left 11 people dead, according to press reports. RT reported that the church attack did take place in a Christian area and that most of the 26 people killed were Christians.

Two other roadside bombs in an outdoor market in the Doura area did kill 11 people and wounded 21 others, according to RT, noting that Maan’s statement contained the conflicting information that those blasts killed 35 people and injured 56 others.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad condemned the violence, according to CNN, saying in a statement that Christians in Iraq have suffered terrorist attacks for many years, along with other Iraqis.

“The United States abhors all such attacks and is committed to its partnership with the Government of Iraq to combat the scourge of terrorism,” according to the statement.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni Muslim extremists from Al Qaeda have targeted Iraqis Christians, according to Reuters. Two Christian security guards were wounded in a June 25 church attack in Baghdad, and in 2010 an Islamic extremist attack on Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Church in the city killed 58 people.

Thousands of members of religious minorities have fled the country in the past 10 years, with the Christian population dropping from about 1.4 million to fewer than 500,000 today.

Morning Star News

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