The American bishops in response to Pope Francis’ plea on behalf of the victims in Iraq have requested that we dedicate Sunday to be a day of prayer and to demonstrate our solidarity with those who are suffering in Iraq. In an article entitled “A Plea on Behalf of the Victims of Iraq” Robert P. George, of Princeton University, states
“The so-called Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS/ISIL) is conducting a campaign of genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and others in Iraq. In its fanatical effort to establish a caliphate, ISIS/ISIL has engaged in crimes against humanity by deliberately causing mass starvation and dehydration, and by committing unconscionable acts of barbarism against noncombatants, including defenseless women, children, and elderly persons. It is imperative that the United States and the international community act immediately and decisively to stop the ISIS/ISIL genocide and prevent the further victimization of religious minorities.”
In fact he has created a website, iraqrescue.org, with a petition, and he says
“I would be grateful if friends would read the plea and, if you agree, go to the website and add your name as a signer. This is a serious matter, and I recognize that not everyone will, in conscience, see the issues just as I do. Of course, I want everyone to follow his or her conscience in deciding whether to join the signers.”
The bishops are asking us to pray, and to give. “We have been asked to pray for peace in Iraq and also to send aid to those who are forced from their homes and in need of assistance,” Bishop DiLorenzo said. At Saint Benedict Parish we will take up a second collection on the 23rd of August to benefit the Christians in Iraq. Please be generous.
Mark Movsesian, who teaches law at St. John’s University, asks, “Can Christians ever be the victimes of genocide?”
“There are reasons why America tends to treat Mideast Christians as an afterthought. Mideast Christians lack a natural constituency in American public life. They are, as one commentator observed, too foreign for the Right and too Christian for the Left. Most of our foreign policy elites have a blind spot about them. And I don’t mean to single out the Obama administration. Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute has recounted her attempts to get the Bush administration to focus on the plight of Iraq’s Christians, only to be told by Condoleezza Rice that assistance for Christians would make the United States appear sectarian.”
The Italian paper La Reppublica presents us with a folio of 21 Christian refugees housed in a church in Irbil. These pictures do not allow us to forget the plight of our brothers and sisters who are suffering.
Not only are the Christians hidden from our eyes, but most American Christians are unaware of the two millennia of Christianity in Iraq. As Professor Sebastian P. Brock points out in an article from Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations [article not online]
“…the contribution of the Syriac Christian population of Iraq played a role of fundamental importance in the course of the ‘translation movement’, enabling Islamic philosophy and medicine to develop in the brilliant ways it did. Without their contribution at the inception of this translation movement, the entire course of subsequent intellectual history in both the Middle East and Europe (thanks to the medieval Western reception of Arabic philosophy, through Spain) would hvve been completely different.
…We can in fact observe something of a pattern that has emerged over the centuries: in the early stages of several important new developments, whether literary or scientific, Christians, who have always been a significant presence in professional fields such as medicine, science, engineering, and education, have played a vital enabling role, facilitating important developments that might not, or indeed sometimes could not, otherwise have developed without their presence and participation.”
Fr. Nageeb Michael, O.P., a Dominican friar and native of Iraq, who is a Chaldean Christian in Mosul, is a scholar and founder of the Center for the Digitization of Oriental Manuscripts, speaks in this video about the current persecution of the Christian community in his homeland.
In this video, Father Nageeb prays for us the prayer that is dear to all of us, in the language our Lord Jesus would have spoken as he instructed for the apostles when they asked him how they should pray:
UPDATE on Father Nageeb, from the website Aleteia:
In a letter written this week, a copy of which was obtained by Aleteia, Iraqi Dominican Father Najeeb Michaeel wrote, “We are in Ankawa [pictured, near Irbil], where several thousand Christians are without shelter and sleep in church pews, parks and sidewalks, in miserable and inhumane conditions. It’s a shame to see crowds of humiliated families, children and elderly…. We are asking first for humanitarian aid and then the assurance of protection and later a means to leave for a new land…”
We must not forget that Christianity in Iraq stretches back 2000 years and is not only a church of apostolic origin but right up to the present time has played an important role in advancing the cause of the gospel.
I commend to your reading:
Very strong statement from the Vatican: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/12/vatican-calls-muslim-leaders-condemn-christian-persecution-iraq
Iraqi Christians Martyred – How ‘Bout that Grand Canyon http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/385183/iraqi-christians-are-being-martyred-how-bout-grand-canyon-charlotte-hays
We Are N Movement Gains Momentum: http://www.christianpost.com/news/wearen-campaign-gains-momentum-brings-attention-to-persecuted-christians-in-iraq-124649/
Britain’s Refusal to Defend Christians in the Middle East Called Shameful: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/edwest/2013/12/britains-refusal-to-defend-christians-in-the-middle-east-is-shameful/
Father Nageeb at First Things: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/06/fr-najeeb-asks-for-your-prayers
Aleppo’s Forgotten Christians: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/08/aleppo-christians-syria-war-iraq-mosul-isis-islamic-state.html