Beirut (AsiaNews) - "What do moderate Muslims say?" asked Maronite Patriarch Bechara al Rahi yesterday, speaking about last week's ultimatum by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to Mosul Christians, which Pope Francis himself mentioned yesterday.
The ultimatum issued last week by the Islamic State against Mosul Christians shocked the Arab world, particularly Catholics and Eastern Orthodox patriarchs. "We hear no one cry out" against this brutal behaviour, said the patriarch in his homily.
The Christians who remained in Mosul after its conquest by the fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), about a hundred families, had three options: First, convert to Islam and become subjects of the Caliphate; second, pay a tax, the "jizya"; and third, leave without taking anything but their clothes or face the sword. Shia Muslims and other minorities were given the same ultimatum.
Events in Mosul "contradict 1,400 years of history and life of the Muslim World," said Louis Sako, patriarch of the Chaldeans, in a message dated 17 July "for Muslims in Iraq and the world" and all men of good will and decision-makers who have some say in the events.
No compulsion in religion
"These imposed conditions hurt Muslims and Islam's reputation," the patriarch of the Chaldeans said in his message. "Islam proclaims that there is no compulsion in religion", and accepts differences in beliefs, according to the hadith 'You have your beliefs and I have mine.'
The conditions imposed contradict 1,400 years of history and life of the Muslim World and coexistence between different religions and different peoples, whether eastern or western, mutual respect for the beliefs and fraternisation between Muslims and Christians, not to mention the happy and unhappy days shared by Christians in the East, since the advent of Islam, and the common blood they shed to defend their rights and lands. They built together cities and a heritage. It is a sin (haram) for Christians to be rejected, expelled and treated roughly.
Let us keep in mind the serious consequences of this fact on the coexistence between majorities and minorities; even among Muslims, for the near and distant future. Otherwise, Iraq is moving towards a humanitarian, cultural and historical catastrophe.
"This is why we are making this urgent and fraternal appeal, full of gravity. We plead with our Iraqi brothers who support them, to revise their strategy, to respect the innocent and isolated civilians, whatever their nationality, religion and community particularities."
"The Qur'an recommends that the innocent be respected, and does not call for the confiscation of the property of others. It spares widows, orphans and the needy and says to be friendly to neighbours."
"Meanwhile, we urge Christians in the region to exercise judgment, to measure properly their actions and understand what is planned for the region, to show solidarity with one another in love, review and retain what is likely to build trust among themselves and with their neighbours, to become one with their churches, to exercise patience and endurance and pray that the trial does not contnue."
Ignatius Youssef III at the Vatican
Indignant reactions also came from the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II, who also denounced the burning and complete destruction of churches and called for "a stop to the funding of extremist groups that spread terror and seek to divide the Iraqi people, which has a long and rich history of coexistence and working together."
For his part, Ignatius Youssef III Younan, patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church, met Card Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with States, with whom he spoke of the calamities that have fallen on the Christians of Iraq, and the partial destruction of the Syriac Catholic church in Aleppo, hit by a huge bomb dropped by a Syrian warplane.
To Card Mamberti, he proposed a meeting of apostolic nuncios from the countries involved to deal with the situation. He suggested joint diplomatic efforts with the patriarch of Moscow, as well as mobilising moderate Islamic regimes and organisations.
Sign of the times, the patriarch made a stop in Rome before flying to the United States where he is set to visit the Syrian Catholic Diocese of Our Lady of Relief, which includes the United States and Canada.