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Pope Urges UN to Lead the Way in Iraq


John Burger - published on 08/13/14 - updated on 06/08/17

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.

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Christians in the Middle EastIraqIslamist MilitantsPope Francis

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