ISIS: Religious Cleansing 'Plain and Simple': Syriac patriarch calls Islamic State actions 'attempted genocide'

Returning from a visit to the Kurdish region of Iraq, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan called the Islamic State invasion "pure and simple religious cleansing and attempted genocide."

"What we, the five patriarchs, saw in Ankawa, Irbil and other cities of Kurdistan, was something indescribable in terms of the violation of human rights and the threat of disappearing of various communities among the vulnerable minorities of Northern Iraq," Patriarch Younan said. "It is a pure and simple religious cleansing and attempted genocide.

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Patriarch Younan and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II stayed in Iraq for six days after arriving as part of a delegation of Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs who visited Irbil to give moral and spiritual support to the beleaguered Iraqis from the Ninevah Plain. The displaced minorities—Christians, Yezidis, Shiite Muslims and Shabaks—sought refuge there from their besieged towns and villages, which fell to Islamic State militants in early August after they were evicted for their religious affiliation.

Patriarch Younan spoke to Catholic News Service about the flood of displaced Iraqis they encountered.

In the Kurdistan region, "we saw hundreds of families still living on the streets, exposed to an unbearable heat wave, lacking the basic needs and primarily fearing for their future," as winter approaches, Patriarch Younan said. Temperatures in the Kurdish region currently climb above 105 degrees Fahrenheit, yet winters are harsh and freezing, often with torrential rain and snow.

Patriarch Younan said the most-asked question by many of the Christian refugees was, "Can we ever return?"

"At that question, the most feared answer was: No answer could be given," he said.

The patriarch said that along with the little financial assistance they could offer the displaced, the patriarchs "prayed with them, consoling, encouraging and inspiring them with Christian 'Hope against all hope,' repeatedly reminding them of the promise of the Lord: 'Do not be afraid, you little flock. ... I will be with you until the end of time.'"

"The church's leaders committed themselves to sound the alarm of the very survival of Christians in Iraq and in the whole Middle East region and pledged to bring the plight of their people to all international arenas: the (U.N.) Security Council, the United States of America, the European Union, as well to Russia and China," Patriarch Younan said.

The patriarchs met at Bkerke, north of Beirut, Aug. 27, to further address the crisis. Local media in Beirut reported that Cardinal Bechara Rai, the Maronite patriarch, was scheduled to meet with Pope Francis the following day.

All of the patriarchs involved in the Irbil delegation, along with other Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs of the Middle East and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, are scheduled to participate in the Sept. 9-11 In Defense of Christians Inaugural Summit for Middle East Christians in Washington. As part of that visit, the prelates will also seek to meet with members of Congress and White House officials.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Beth Cioffoletti
4 years 1 month ago
As tragic as the situation is for the Christians in the region, I'm not sure that making ISIS the enemy/problem is the way to respond. "As the Scriptures remind us, “Do not believe the hype.” The hype of the moment is ISIS, the Sunni militia that just drove the so-called Iraqi Army out of Mosul, Tikrit, and other Iraqi cities. This is one of those dramatic military reverses that mean a lot less than meets the eye. The “Iraqi Army” routed by ISIS wasn’t really a national army, and ISIS isn’t really a dominant military force. It was able to occupy those cities because they were vacuums, abandoned by a weak, sectarian force. Moving into vacuums like this is what ISIS is good at. And that’s the only thing ISIS is good at." Read the rest here: http://pando.com/2014/06/16/the-war-nerd-heres-everything-you-need-to-know-about-too-extreme-for-al-qaeda-i-s-i-s/
Tim O'Leary
4 years 1 month ago
ISIS appears to be more anti-human than the Taliban, with reports every day of mass executions, beheadings, ethnic cleansings, and religious persecution. (see this, for example, re 250 executions: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28965959). Those who are most concerned about capital punishment should note they execute more each week than the US Judicial System did in the last 40 years. While they mostly kill Muslims, that is just because they are killers and the Muslims are closest. But, as they win battles and gain foreign recruits, they will be coming to Europe and America soon. Several members of this administration have warned us: Our Secretary of State (Kerry) & Defense (Hagel), our UN Ambassador (Powers) - even our Attorney General, for God's sake "Eric Holder: "“in some ways . . . more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as attorney general" (link below). Yet, all our Can't Do President does is contradict his appointees and forever list the things American cannot do. See this Washington Post Editorial: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/president-obama-needs-to-focus-on-how-the-united-states-can-meet-global-challenges/2014/08/29/11ec9e5e-2f90-11e4-bb9b-997ae96fad33_story.html. Imagine that he went golfing right after his address condemning the beheading of the journalist Foley. Or this NYT column from Maureen Dowd, of all people: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/opinion/sunday/maureen-dowd-the-golf-address.html?_r=0

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