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Pope Urges UN to Lead the Way in Iraq

Isidians in Iraq – en

© ankawa.net

John Burger - published on 08/13/14

World and religious leaders seek solutions involving military, political means.

Pope Francis has written to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, urging the “international community to take action to end the humanitarian traged” in Iraq.

The Vatican released to contents of the Aug. 9 letter today.

“I encourage all the competent organs of the United Nations, in particular those responsible for security, peace, humanitarian law and assistance to refugees, to continue their efforts in accordance with the Preamble and relevant Articles of the United Nations Charter,” Pope Francis wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Asked what the secretary-general’s response to the letter was, a UN spokesman said at a press briefing in New York today: "I think the secretary-general shares a lot of expressions that have been expressed, not only by the Pope but by others, as to the humanitarian and human tragedy that we’ve seen. It’s clear from the information we have, the pictures we’ve seen that what is happening may amount to crimes against humanity, may amount to war crimes as well, and I think the protection of civilians here is critical."

The spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said there needs to be a cessation of hostilities or the creation of a humanitarian corridor to get aid to people stranded on Mount Sinjar. He said the World Health Organization is setting up mobil health clinics to treat people who have made it down the mountain.  

Ban met with reporters yesterday in New York, and though he did not mention the Pope’s letter, he said he welcomes the movement toward the formation of a new government in Baghdad.

“Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abbadi now has the important task of forming a broad-based government acceptable to all components of Iraqi society,” Ban said, adding, “It is imperative that the security forces refrain from intervening in the political process.”

But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday he will not relinquish power until a federal court rules on what he claims is a "constitutional violation" by the president to replace him with a member of his own party, AP reported.

Al-Abadi, a fellow member of al-Maliki’s Shiite Dawa party, was picked by President Fouad Massoum to form a new government that can unite the country in the face of an onslaught by Sunni militants.

Ban said the Islamic State, which has been pushing Christians out of their ancestral villages in northern Iraq and threatening to wipe out the entire Yezidi community, “is a threat to Iraq, Syria and the region.

"I am profoundly dismayed by its barbaric acts, including accounts of summary executions, boys forcibly taken from their homes to fight, girls abducted or trafficked as sex slaves.” Ban said. 

The leader of the world body said that UN humanitarian personnel are in the area of Mount Sinjar, where Yezidis and others have taken refuge, “doing what we can” to address an “especially harrowing” situation. “Air drops of food and water are reaching some of the trapped people. But the situation on the mountain is dire. And even when people manage to find a way out, they remain exposed to searing heat and a perilous odyssey.”

Ban’s Special Advisors on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and on the Responsibility to Protect, Jennifer Welsh, condemned in the  the reported execution by the Islamic State of some 500 Yazidi community members in Sinjar and the surrounding areas, according to the United Nations website. They also expressed alarm at reports of the abduction of some 1,500 Yezidi, Christian and Shabak women and girls.

Ban urged the international community to do “even more to provide the protection they need.”

Pope Francis’ letter was largely a moral appeal, citing “the consciences of all men and women of goodwill” and calling to mind “the tragic experiences of the 20th Century as something to avoid repeating—perhaps a reference to the attempted extermination of religious and other minorities by totalitarian regimes of the past.

A report over the weekend, however, suggested that the Vatican was applauding military action taken by the United States to drive ISIS back from the civilians trapped on Sinjar. That stance would be a departure from the usual call for finding solutions through peaceful, diplomatic means. 

The Vatican’s representative at UN headquarters in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, told Vatican Radio that in the long run, the only solution to Iraq’s problems will come with “a dialogue of reconciliation and the acceptance of diversity,” with a regime that ensures equal rights for all.

Archbishop Tomasi said that until now there has been “a certain indifference at the practical level with the international community.”

But now, “we hope the voice that is surging from different Christian and religious communities, from moderate Muslims, from people of good will around the world, may find the response of concrete humanitarian assistance that is provided for the Christians in northern Iraq as well as some political and even effective military protection,” he said. 

And today, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako said that because of the United States’ history of involvement in Iraq, it has the responsibility to take a leading role in solving the refugee problem, including using force against the Islamic terrorists.

“There are no signs of a quick solution for the fate of more than 100,000 people who fled from 13 villages in the Nineveh Plain,” Patriarch Sako wrote. “It is not possible to rely on the central government that is being formed as the process is going through troubled times. … It will require a good amount of time for a new government to bring back order and peace in the country. So before the harsh and heartbreaking realities further afflict these families, the United States of America, also due to their prior involvement in Iraq, the European Union and the league of Arab countries have the responsibility to act rapidly for a solution. They must clear the Nineveh Plain from all the elements of Jihadist Warriors and help these displaced families return to their ancestral villages and reconstitute their lives so that they can conserve and practice their religion, culture and traditions through an active and effective international campaign until the central government and the regional government of Kurdistan become effective. It saddens me to think of them choosing migration as a viable option."

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue yesterday called for Muslim leaders to denounce the brutality of IS militants, saying there was no possible justification for their "unspeakable crimes."

The council said Islamic State militants were guilty of the "heinous practice of decapitation, crucifixion and stringing up bodies in public places," insisting that "no reason, certainly not religion, could justify such barbarism."

The Council of European Bishops’ Conferences also sent a letter to the  United Nations Security Council, calling on the international community to take urgent “decisions to put an end to the atrocious actions against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.”

John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.

Tags:
Christians in the Middle EastIraqIslamist MilitantsPope Francis
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