09/17/2014, 00.00
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For Baghdad patriarch, an intervention by Arab States is essential in the Iraqi crisis

by Louis Raphael I Sako *

At the UN, the patriarchs and bishops of the Churches of the Middle East denounce the sufferings of Christians, victims of the violence of the Islamic State, a tragic situation that calls for action by the international community. Islamists must be defeated and peaceful coexistence restored. AsiaNews presents Mar Sako's address.

Geneva (AsiaNews) - The patriarchs and bishops of the Churches of the Middle East spoke yesterday about the tragic situation of a people that has peacefully lived in the region for 2,000 years but is now targeted by the criminals of the Islamic State, especially in Syria and Iraq, for practicing their faith.

Invited to the Geneva offices of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, in the final statement the prelates slammed the systematic persecution of the minority, done "in the name of God", in clear violation "of the fundamental right to religious freedom."

The ideology behind ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now the Islamic State) is contrary to human rights, the leaders of the Eastern Churches said, and leads "to genocide, the death of innocent people and other serious abuses."

It represents a threat not only for Christians but "for all other groups and ethnicities" as well as "society as a whole" in the Middle East and the world.
">In view of such abuses, "indifference" is a greater crime.

For the patriarchs and bishops, the international community has a "duty" and a "responsibility" to take action to protect communities at risk, as the General Assembly of the United Nations indicated in the past. Such a duty comes into effect, they explain, when "the state is unable to protect its own citizens," as is the case today in Iraq.

Finally, as winter approaches, the prelates call for aid - food, water, shelter, medicine, blankets - for refugees ahead of their return home.
">Meanwhile, the priority, they note, is to "defeat ISIL and restore peaceful coexistence."

Here is the personal address by his Beatitude Mar Raphael I Louis Sako at the United Nations in Geneva, sent exclusively to AsiaNews:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am touched and grateful to you for your presence here. It shows that you are not indifferent to the tragedy of our people.

ISIS is an extremist organization, guided with blind principles of brutality, well-funded, well-armed with sophisticated weapons, widely present in the social media. The daily practice of robberies, gang rapes, torture and murder of all those who are seen as nonbelievers is common. They are able to recruit fighters from across the globe. Isis is a potential threat to the entire world.

So in the name of all the persecuted I beg and urge all leaders to find a strategy - a road map to end the present tragedy and prevent also future threats.

Here are some requests what should be done right now and later:

- To continue providing humanitarian aid of shelter, food, water, medicine and clothing to survive till the return of our people to their homes and villages.

- To liberate not only the plain of Nineveh, but also Mosul by a comprehensive political solution. An international coalition with the mandate of UN is needed to protect and defend the rights of defenceless displaced thousands in this region. Airstrikes only will kill innocent people. There should be troops on the ground and why not from the Arab countries. It is necessary to train the Iraqi central army professionally and to equip it and also the Kurdish Peshmerga.

- To support the safe return of the displaced people to their homes and villages and to ensure them of international protection. This should be guaranteed by a UN resolution otherwise we would have the same destiny like the Palestinians.

- To guarantee that the displaced persons are given adequate compensation for their lost properties and destroyed houses by the Iraqi Government. Here other governments, aid organisations and NGOs can contribute a lot.

- To put the Christian heritage sites which go back to the early centuries under the patronage and protection of UNESCO.

- All the mentioned measures are necessary. But the protection of human rights of every single citizen is the best and only way to secure a peaceful coexistence. War is always evil and bringing misfortune to the people. Let us examine our conscience what we are doing to prevent war. What about the arm sales? Instead of selling weapons, human rights and religious freedom of all should be promoted.

Thank you for your sympathy to the fate of our suffering people. Please take our case to your governments, to your political parties, to your institutions, to your churches and mosques.

* Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad and president of the Bishops' Conference of Iraq

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