In Iraq yesterday, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako and other Church leaders called on the Iraqi government to ensure "necessary protection" for Christians and other minorities, provide "financial support to displaced people who have lost everything," pay the wages of state employees "immediately," compensate those who have suffered material losses and ensure continuity in the provision of housing and social services and education for families who may have to spend a long time away from their homes.
This appeal was issued after a meeting Patriarch Sako had with Chaldean, Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic and Armenian bishops Tuesday in Ankawa (a suburb of Erbil).
The bishops also invited "people of conscience in Iraq and around the world" to put pressure on militants to stop "the destruction of churches and monasteries, manuscripts, relics and all the Christian heritage, priceless Iraqi and international heritage.
That destruction has already been extensive, according to a report issued today by the Christian Aid Program of Northern Iraq, or CAPNI. In it, Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana says that all churches and monasteries in Mosul—about 30—have been are seized by ISIS. Crosses and crucifixes have been removed from all of them. Many of the buildings have been burned, destroyed and looted. Others are being used as ISIS centers. Mar Ephraim Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in eastern part of Mosul has been converted into a mosque.
In addition, he confirmed earlier reports that Sunni, Shiite and Christian tombs and shrines have been destroyed, including the tomb of the prophet Jonah.
Father Youkhana said that in addition to the bishops’ meeting in Erbil, there was also a meeting of Christian political parties, who planned to go to the UN office in Ankawa today to demand that the international community protect Iraqi Christians.
He said a solution to the current crisis can only be achieved through reviewing and restructuring Iraq. It’s important, he added, to convince Christians to say.
“According to a majority of Iraqi Christian politicians and people, the starting point is to grant the province (governorate) status for Nineveh Plain where the intensive Christian, Yezedian and Shabak demography exists.”
Father Youkhana also reported on the situation in Qaraqosh (Hamdaniya), where 97% of the 45,000-50,000 residents are Christians. ISIS tried to take over this town too, but the Peshmerga militia fought them off.
Still, Hamdaniya and other nearby villages are suffering from a lack of electricity, water and medicines, thanks to ISIS. The towns were connected to Mosul’s electric grid and a water pipeline from Salamiya , but ISIS has cut them off from those. The towns are relying on wells and generators, but the cost of diesel is high.
“Of course, ISIS is not providing the hospital of Hamdaniya with medicines,” Father Youkhana said. “There is a huge shortage and great need for medicines.”
The priest predicts that the Peshmerga and the Iraqi military will keep ISIS from expanding its control to the Nineveh Plain. In addition, he said, the region is not Arab or Sunni and therefore will not accept or cooperate with ISIS.