Bishops' charge to US government: help Iraqi Christians

A family at the Khazair checkpoint after fleeing from Mosul, Iraq on June 11, 2014. Credit: R. Nuri UNHCR-ACNUR via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

The U.S. bishops have urged the U.S. government to assist Iraqi Christian victims of persecution, while France has offered asylum to Iraqi Christians who have fled Mosul.

“The Islamic State has taken control of large swaths of territory in northern Iraq, leaving a trail of destruction, burning and looting ancient churches and mosques, homes and businesses,” Bishop Richard E. Pates, the U.S. bishops’ chairman of International Justice and Peace, said July 25.

“Thousands have fled with little more than the clothes on their backs, often being robbed of their few personal possessions as they ran,” he said in a letter to U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

Bishop Pates, who heads the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, cited a July 22 statement from bishops of the Chaldean Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox and Armenian Churches.

The Iraqi bishops appealed to the Iraqi government to protect Christians’ rights and the rights of other minorities targeted for violence and displacement. They also urged financial assistance and social services for the displaced.

Bishop Pates stressed the need for humanitarian aid directly provided to minority communities through trusted non-governmental organizations in order to prevent its diversion to other purposes.

He urged the U.S. government to “do all it can to provide this critical assistance to those in desperate straits and to work with other governments in an effort to stop the violence.”

Bishop Pates cited Pope Francis’ words, “violence is defeated with peace.”

Iraq’s Christians have been hit particularly hard by the rise of the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, known as ISIS or ISIL.

Only 20 Christian families remain in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, an ancient center of Christianity, following the city’s conquest by ISIS forces, the BBC reports.

Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Babylon, who is based in Baghdad, estimated that there were about 35,000 Christians in Mosul before the city’s fall, down from 60,000 before the 2003 U.S. invasion.

The French government has offered asylum to the Iraqi Christians who have fled Mosul.

“We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum on our territory,” France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius and interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve, members of the ruling Socialist government, said in a joint statement.

French opposition party the National Front on July 26 held a rally in Paris to support Iraqi Christians, BBC News reports.


Voices

Seeking the face of God in the Scriptures

Archbishop José H. Gomez

Prayer is seeking the face of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls the story of how St. John Vianney once found a peasant praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The saint asked him what he was doing, and the man replied: “I look at him and he looks at me.”

Events

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February 13, 2016

  • Saturday, February 13

    World Day of the Sick Mass, Mass and Anointing of the Sick, 12:30 p.m., Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels,  555 W Temple St, Los Angeles. Archbishop Gomez presiding with other bishops and priests. Special section designated for those in wheelchairs with volunteers available to help. Limited parking available for $8. Carpooling is encouraged. For more info: Chuck Huebner at cjhuebner @gmail.com or Jim LoCoco at flavialococ0@msn.com.

     

     

    Bosco Tech’s Yurak Memorial Run & Kids’ Fun Run, Check in begins at 8 a.m., Memorial Run at 9 a.m., Fun Run at 10 a.m., Bosco Tech, 1151 San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead. Race registration is $35 per person. For school groups of 10 or more, the cost is $30. To register online, go to www.boscotech.edu/events or www.yurak.eventbrite.com; same-day registration available at check-in table. Included: racing fees, finisher medal, goodie bag and BBQ lunch. Plaques will be awarded to the top five male and female runners and to the fastest runner under 18.All proceeds to benefit Bosco Tech’s Yurak Athletic Center (YAC). 

     

    Cabrini Literary Guild “Sweetheart Bingo” Meeting, Sat., Feb.13 at Oakmont Country Club, 3100 Country Club Drive, Glendale. Meeting starts at 11 a.m., lunch at 12 p.m. ($30/person), and bingo social at 1 p.m. Bingo cards are $5 each, or $20 for five cards. For reservations, call (818) 790-3485.

     

    Footprints: Making Tracks for Neighbors in Need, 8:30 - 11:30 a.m., Bishop Amat High School track, 14301 Fairgrove Ave., La Puente. Catholic Charities San Gabriel Region will present this annual walk/run fundraiser to increase awareness about poverty, hunger and homelessness in the San Gabriel Region. Proceeds benefit those lacking basic needs, such as food, clothing, transportation and shelter. This is a come anytime, leave anytime event, with the first lap around the track to be led by Bishop David O'Connell. For more information, visit lentenfootprints.yolasite.com or contact Mary Romero at (213) 251-3582 or mromero@ccharities.org.

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