Since August 6, when thousands of Christians fled an onslaught of Islamic militants in northern Iraq, no "concrete solutions" to the crisis have been found, said Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Louis Sako of Baghdad in a new appeal Sunday.
The president of Iraq’s bishps’ conference has been very vocal since the Islamic State, establishing a modern-day caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq, have forced members of religious minorities from their ancestral homelands and undertaken a campaign of beheadings, crucifixions and enslavement.
Pope Francis recently sent a personal envoy to the region, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and the patriarch accompanied him during his visit. Describing the visits to refugee camps in Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Iraq, particularly in Erbil and Dohok, the patriarch commented, "What I saw and what I heard is beyond any imagination. " Christians and other minorities, he said, have received "a terrible blow" to the "heart of their life," and they are deprived of all rights, property, and documents.
The Chaldean Patriarchate speaks of "continuous persecution" of militants against unarmed Christian civilians, including children, AsiaNews reported. In Baghdida, one of the cities of the Nineveh plain, ISIS militants seized Ebada Khader, a child of only three years, "literally tearing her from the arms of her family." The militiamen kidnapped the girl and forced the family to leave their home, dragging them to the checkpoint Khazar. Christian sources in the city of Bashiqa, one of the towns north of Mosul, instead describe having found the bodies of two Christian men, who died of hunger and malnutrition in their home.
And while "the flow of money, weapons and combatants" into the hands of the Islamic State continues unabated, Patriarch Sako complained that the world "has not yet understood the gravity of the situation."
Recent events, though, seem to be changing that, in particular, the gruesome killing of American freelance journalist James Foley. News that government intelligence services in the UK have identified a British fighter suspected of murdering Foley has increased awareness of the danger posed by Western mercenaries among the membership of the Islamic State. Experts have warned that such members, who hold Western passports, pose a danger to the United States and other western countries in terms of carrying out terrorist attacks.
President Barack Obama, who has ordered limited air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq, is said to be facing decisions about whether to expand that fight into Syria. The U.S. has been in talks with Britain, France, Australia and Canada on how they can become more involved in confronting Islamic State by sharing intelligence, providing military assistance to Kurdish forces in Iraq and to moderate opposition forces in Syria, and if necessary, participating in military action, the Associated Press reported Monday.
Meanwhile, the government in Baghdad and its Iranian ally have launched an appeal to the international community for a joint plan of action against the militias of the Islamic State. Yesterday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made an official visit to the Iraqi capital, where he met with outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the new Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, the Speaker of Parliament, Salim al-Jubouri and President Hoshyar Zebari. During the press conference, theTehran representative denied the presence of Iranian troops on the ground in the war against the Islamist militias; he hoped at the same time for a joint international operation against ISIS.