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Iraq’s Bishops Continue to Ask, “Why is World Silent?”

SAFIN HAMED / AFP
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Prelates receive assurances from Kurd leader but look to West for help.

As Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki continued to resist calls to step down and the country got a new president, Christian leaders continued to ask why the world seemed to be ignoring the plight of Christian minorities there.

Leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox Christian communities in Iraq met in Erbil, near the northern city of Mosul, Tuesday, appealing to people worldwide to break the silence surrounding the ethnic cleansing of Christian and other minorities.

​“We have to ask the world: Why are you silent? Why do not you speak out? Do human rights exist or not? And if they exist, where are they?" Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad Shlemon Warduni asked in an interview with Vatican Radio. "There are many, many cases that should arouse the conscience of the whole world: Where is Europe? Where is America?”

Bishop Warduni added that the silence of the West is compounded by rumors that more than 2000 militants among the ISIS troops “are European and US mercenaries." 

He said that that morning, the bishops went to the president of Kurdistan, who told them, "Either we all leave together, or we stay, but all together. We have to stop these people, who are unconscionable because they do terrible things to people, to children, to the elderly, the sick."

"He assured protection for Christians,” Bishop Warduni said. 

Separately, the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq has written to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asking him to put pressure on the Iraqi government and the international community to step up assistance to  Iraq’s Christians and minorities targeted by Islamic militants.

"Our community has suffered a disproportionate share of hardship caused by sectarian conflicts, terrorist attacks, migration and now even ethnic cleansing: the militants want to wipe out the Christian community," wrote Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako.

Christian political parties on Wednesday approached the UN office in Ankawa to demand that the international community protect Iraqi Christians.

More than 1.2 million people are now believed to have fled their homes in the last month. As violence and instability continues to spread, and as summer temperatures top 100 degrees, those displaced are in urgent need of assistance. Moreover there are more than 225,000 refugees from Syria already in northern Iraq. The Islamic State reportedly now controls 40% of Iraq and 30% of Syria.

The Islamic State continues its purge not only of Christians but religious symbols it deems offensive to its fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Today, the Associate Press reported that residents of Mosul say Islamic extremist militants have blown up a revered Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah. The residents say the Islamic State militants, who overran Mosul in June and imposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law on the city, ordered everyone out of the Prophet Younis Mosque and Shrine, built on an archaeological site dating back to 8th century BC, then blew it up.

The extremists have removed the crosses from all 30 churches and monasteries in Mosul and converted the Syriac Orthodox cathedral into a mosque, according to the Assyrian International News Agency.

A front-page story in L’Osservatore Romano today referred to the Islamic State as the “Caliphate of Brutality,” and said that its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has ordered all women and girls within its territory to undergo genital mutilation. The Vatican newspaper also reported that ISIL earlier ordered “families to give virgin girls in marriage to jihadists” and segregated universities by sex.

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