09/03/2014, 00.00
IRAQ

For Mosul archbishop, Islamist beheadings and barbarism stem from fear for their military defeats

These are not "exceptional deeds," Mgr Nona said commenting the killing of US journalist Sotloff, because these people "do not value human life". This is "not an act of war, but an act of barbarism and brutality". Minorities are trying to work together but their scattering is an obstacle. Refugees still face a housing problem.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - "Killing a person in such a brutal way is not human. In the 21st century, it is unconceivable to witness such a sad and barbaric type of killing," said Mgr Shimoun Emil Nona, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, in northern Iraq, who spoke to AsiaNews about the execution of American journalist Steven Sotloff.

The United States and Great Britain have confirmed the authenticity of the video released yesterday by the Islamist militia (titled 'A second message to America'), in which the journalist is beheaded.

"We are not faced with exceptional deeds," the prelate added, "because this modus operandi by the Islamic Army is a normal thing". All we need to do is "just remember" what they did to our [Iraqi] Christians and other minorities. They do not think about others; they do not value human life."

Steve Sotloff, 31, was a freelance journalist who worked for Time magazine, Foreign Policy, World Affairs Journal and the Christian Science Monitor. He is the second American journalist brutally killed by Islamic militants after his colleague James Foley.

Commenting on his tragic fate, a spokesman for the Sotloff family described it as a horrible tragedy, saying that the family asked that their privacy be respected at this difficult time so that they could mourn their loss in private.

Mgr Nona was the first to sound the alarm about the danger posed by the Islamist advance after their conquest of Mosul - when about half a million people, Muslims and Christians, fled in early June - and the establishment of a caliphate and the imposition of Sharia.

For the bishop, decapitating  Sotloff "is not an act of war", but a "barbaric murder" of an innocent man, whose only fault was that he belonged to "a different religion or thought differently."

Repeatedly, the prelate insisted that "this is not an act of war, but an act of barbarism and brutality".

For him, decapitations and the online dissemination of the images show how the militias operate; at the same time, they are sign of their "fear" and "weakness" in the face of US air strikes that have blocked their push.

"These brutal acts are not threats," he added. "They are the modus operandi on the ground. When they control an area, residents either submit to them, think like them, practice their faith, embrace their extremist vision or they are killed or driven out."

The brutal killing of journalist reflects the many killings of Christians and members of other Iraqi minorities.

"They have massacred so many people, but nobody is talking about it," he said.  "The videos are also a means of propaganda to challenge America."

To counter the Islamic Army's logic of violence and terror, Iraqi civilians, the leaders of the Catholic Church, and the leaders of minorities must work together, help each other, and rebuild in harmony and unity.

"Relations among the refugees, and minorities, are good," Mgr Nona said, "although it is hard to get together to develop joint projects. Christians, Turkmen, and Yazidis are dispersed over a geographically wide area and it is difficult to keep in touch. Yet, as much as possible, we try to collaborate".

On the living conditions of refugees, the prelate said that there are "no shortages of food and water now," but the problem is "housing. Many people are living on the streets, sleeping in flowerbeds, or in public schools. But in a few days, they will have to leave them and we do not know where to put them . . . This is a big problem. There is no housing."

For the archbishop, the fight against Islamists must "not only be with weapons" but must involve in-depth involvement with society and young people.

"One has to understand why people, especially young people, are attracted to this ideology," he said.

Such an effort calls for real "national reconstruction" in the capital Baghdad as well as in country's outlying regions.

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