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CATHOLIC VOICES/ Catholic Church urges global action to assist victims of Iraq ‘catastrophe’

CATHOLIC VOICES report on the call for international action in Iraq by Catholic Church leaders in London, Brussels and Rome and by the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue

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Catholic Church leaders in London, Brussels and Rome have spoken out in stark terms to condemn the brutal extermination of religious minorities in northern Iraq by the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIL), and to call for international action to assist those fleeing the jihadists who face death from starvation and thirst.

Tens of thousands of refugees are trapped on Mount Sinjar in temperatures of up to 50 degrees and surrounded by ISIS extremists.

In a letter to the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, describes the “catastrophe” facing tens of thousands of Christians and Yazidis, thanks the Government for its humanitarian efforts, and urges the Foreign Office to help restore pluralism and peace in Iraq.

Cardinal Nichols attaches a letter to the United Nations Security Council which is signed by the presidents of European bishops’ conferences (CCEE) calling on the international community “to put a stop to this tragedy with every possible, legitimate means”. They ask the Security Council of the United Nations to “take those decisions that would stop these acts of atrocity” while urging “concrete humanitarian measures to answer the plight of children, of women, of elderly and of many persons who have lost everything to escape death and who now risk dying of thirst and hunger”.

Meanwhile, the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue has issued a powerful call to religious leaders to act to condemn and stop all violence committed in the name of religion.

The whole world has witnessed with incredulity what is now called the “Restoration of the Caliphate,” which had been abolished on October 29, 1923 by Kamal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. Opposition to this “restoration” by the majority of religious institutions and Muslim politicians has not prevented the “Islamic State” jihadists from committing and continuing to commit unspeakable criminal acts.

This Pontifical Council, together with all those engaged in interreligious dialogue, followers of all religions, and all men and women of good will, can only unambiguously denounce and condemn these practices which bring shame on humanity:

-the massacre of people on the sole basis of their religious affiliation;

-the despicable practice of beheading, crucifying and hanging bodies in public places;

-the choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of a tax (jizya) or forced exile;

-the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, elderly, pregnant women and the sick;

-the abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as spoils of war (sabaya);

-the imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation;

-the destruction of places of worship and Christian and Muslim burial places;

-the forced occupation or desecration of churches and monasteries;

-the removal of crucifixes and other Christian religious symbols as well as those of other religious communities;

-the destruction of a priceless Christian religious and cultural heritage;

-indiscriminate violence aimed at terrorizing people to force them to surrender or flee.