Announcement comes as protests spread throughout country.
Pope Francis’ universal prayer intention for the month of August could hardly be more timely. Announced on Tuesday, the intention focuses on “refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes” that they may “find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.”
Ahead of the papal appeal the French government announced that it is ready to help facilitate asylum in its territory for Christians and other minorities fleeing an Islamist onslaught in Northern Iraq.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a joint statement on Monday that they are taking steps to ease the suffering of Christians now fleeing northern Iraq en masse.
"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIL is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," the ministers said, referring to the Islamic State’s former name of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil. We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them."
Support is growing in France for the religious minority being run out of their homeland in northern Iraq by ISIS jihadists, with thousands taking part in demonstrations of support this weekend in various cities across France.
Also, on Monday, the United States Department of State issued its annual report on religious freedom, noting the growing phenomenon of Christians and other religious minorities fleeing their homelands because of persecution.
"In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory, said the International Religious Freedom Report. "In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs. Out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are emptying of residents. Communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map. In conflict zones, in particular, this mass displacement has become a pernicious norm."
Meanwhile a French Church delegation led by Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, has travelled to Iraq in a sign of solidarity with the Christian community there. The group includes Bishop Michel Dubost of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes, who told Vatican Radio there is some concern that the situation in Gaza is overshadowing the plight of Eastern Christians and what is happening to them.
“The images on our television speak clearly: what we see is Gaza. But we have no images of what is happening in Syria and Iraq," said Bishop Dobost. "Yet the Christians here are really suffering. There is little or no mention of this so we are trying our best to bring this suffering to public attention.”
Bishop Dubost also denounces the failure of the international community to intervene to find a solution. He says the US-led invasion of 2003 opened a “Pandora’s box, which has done more harm than good” and warns that the so-called "Caliphate" appears to be very well financed with an alarming access to resources and media. This, he adds, should be of global concern.
The French bishop says that their mission is first of all a show of solidarity for the Iraqi people. The French delegation wants to meet the people who are suffering, tell them face to face that they are spiritually present beside them and hear their stories.
“Sure, it’s a small consolation”, he concludes “but when someone is suffering it is important to listen to them and be close. We ask the Lord to change hearts. There are no other solutions. We go to Iraq as poor people, but the poor can change the world.”
Reprinted with permission ofhttp://en.radiovaticana.va/.