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“Unless we want to be silent witnesses to the last few lines of the history of Christianity in Iraq, the international community must respond decisively now..."
An elderly Iraqi woman fleeing violence gestures at the Al Waleed refugee camp in Iraq Aug. 19. One group of sick, elderly Iraqi Christians said they defied terrorist demands to convert to Islam or be killed. (CNS photo/Morris Bernard)

Königstein, Germany/Erbil, Iraq (kath.net/ACN). “Unless we want to be silent witnesses to the last few lines of the history of Christianity in Iraq, the international community must respond decisively now,” said Baron Johannes Heereman, President of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, after his return from Erbil, the largest city and capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Heereman had traveled to Iraq at the invitation of the Patriarch of Babylon, Louis Sako, to get an idea of the situation and the needs of the more than 100,000 displaced Christians who have taken refuge in Ankawa, the Christian district of Erbil, and in the villages to the north of Duhok and Zakho. “The situation is tragic. We have met bishops, priests, sisters and volunteers who are on duty day and night providing basic assistance. Temperatures are reaching highs of 44o C [111o F]. The people need a roof over their heads and medical treatment. There is still a lot to be done,” Heereman reported. Besides the necessary humanitarian emergency assistance, though, we should ask how we can help the Christians and other minorities in Iraq, so that a tragedy like this does not repeat itself: “Many already have a long road of persecution and suffering behind them. They are dejected and just want to go away. They are begging for help in order to get a visa to another country. But there are also many people who want to return to their houses, which frequently have been plundered by their neighbors: to the place where they have lived for generations, where their history and their roots are. They left everything when they fled, and yet they want to go back,” Heereman said.

“There is still hope for the Christians in Iraq, but only if we act immediately,” reads the message from Patriarch Louis Sako to the President of Aid to the Church in Need. The relief organization therefore calls on the Western world to take moral responsibility and to help the Christians and other religious minorities who would like to stay by providing protection and security. “This cannot remain the concern solely of the Church in Iraq. We cannot be silent witnesses to destruction that is assuming the proportions of a catastrophe for civilization. We can certainly speak about the threat of genocide. The Church can relieve sorrow and need, but the question of security and defense as well as the right to life and to religious freedom is a matter of politics,” Heereman emphasized.

Kirche in Not, the German branch of Aid to the Church in Need, has promised Iraqi Christians, especially the refugees from the Islamist terror group IS (Islamic State), a second emergency assistance package of 100,000 Euros. The first emergency aid package of 100,000 Euros was distributed in June of this year.

North American readers can contribute to relief for the refugees in Iraq by contacting:

Aid to the Church in Need
725 Leonard Street
P.O. Box 220384
Brooklyn, NY 11222

www.churchinneed.org

Translated by Michael J. Miller

 
About the Author
Michael J. Miller 

Michael J. Miller translated Introduction to the Mystery of the Church by Benoit-Dominique de la Soujeole, O.P., for Catholic University of America Press.
 
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