US, other nations stepping up support for refugees, Kurdish fighters.
Catholics throughout the United States have organized efforts to pray for peace in Iraq, especially for persecuted Christians.
The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international justice and peace committee, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, has called for collective prayer for peace in Iraq on Sunday, Aug. 17 using a prayer written by the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon.
“Lord, the plight of our country is deep and the suffering of Christians is severe and frightening,” reads the prayer of Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako. “Therefore, we ask you Lord to spare our lives, and to grant us patience, and courage to continue our witness of Christian values with trust and hope.”
“Lord, peace is the foundation of life; grant us the peace and stability that will enable us to live with each other without fear and anxiety, and with dignity and joy,” the prayer concludes. “Glory be to you forever.”
In an interview with Aleteia, Patriarch Sako suggested that the situation faced by the Yazidi people in Iraq is worse than the ordeal Christians are enduring. He said more than a thousand Yazidi women have been kidnapped and “too many children” have died.
“These people have no food and water and feel isolated from the world,” he said. “They do not know where to go and what to do.”
The patriarch said that reports of ISIS beheading Christian children is not true.
"Nothing of the kind,” the Baghdad-based prelate said. “No decapitation. In Mosul there was money stolen, but Christians have not been physically attacked.”
He said that during the massive exodus of Christians from Mosul, after the jihadist group had threatened the population with a heavy tax or death if they did not convert to their brand of Islam, there was panic in the Nineveh Plain and that there was one fatality, which he described as “a man during a tense moment, while trying to cross a checkpoint.”
The patriarch also confirmed news of kidnappings of Christian women, apparently so ISIS can bolster its bank account from ransom money.
But in his appeal to American Catholics, Bishop Pates noted the struggles of Christians and other minorities in Iraq. Militants with the Islamic State have burned and looted churches, homes, and businesses, and have threatened those who do not convert to Sunni Islam.
Bishop Pates also encouraged Catholics to tell their legislators about their concerns for Christians and other religious minorities suffering in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.
Someone launched an online petition at the website of the White House in an effort to get more support for Christians in Iraq from the Obama administration.
“The Christians in Iraq are in a modern day Holocaust,” the petition reads. “They are being forced from their homes and given options to leave on foot or die by the sword by the terrorist group ISIS. They need help in many forms to be able to leave the country for safety. Even if someone does not believe in this religion or any religion for that matter, these are crimes against humanity that shouldn’t be happening. The US Govt. has frozen billions of dollars in Iraqi assets, and some of that money could be used to help grant those people political asylum. Crimes against humanity are being committed and the US has the means and Iraq’s money to help.”
After a weekend of trying to provide food and water by airdrops, and directing military airstrikes at ISIS targets, the Obama administration has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces who have started to make gains against the Islamic militants, senior U.S. officials said Monday, AP reported. The aid has so far been limited to automatic rifles and ammunition.