ACN News: Monday, 11th August 2014 – IRAQ
Christians in Iraq on the run
• In a separate letter Patriarch Sako describes the refugee crisis unfolding in Erbil and Duhok
By M. Petrosillo/J. Koopman
Speaking over the phone from Erbil, a source, asking to remain anonymous for security reasons, told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that, following the recent capture by IS (formerly ISIS) of the Niniveh Plains, some tens of thousands Christians fled to Duhok and Erbil. “Those who lived between Alqosh and Tall Kayf moved towards Duhok, while the ones staying in the villages between Qaraqosh and Bashiqa reached Erbil,” the source said. In the Kurdistan capital of Erbil, the Church shelters refugees in the Chaldean Cathedral of St. Joseph, located in the Christian section of Ankawa, and in the other churches of the city. “The Church has been doing all it can, but the resources are not sufficient to help so many people, among them women and children, who were forced to leave everything behind: homes and all their personal possessions.” In the past two months about 2000 Christian families have fled to Lebanon, while another 2000 have found refuge in Turkey.
(Displaced Christians sleeping out in the open in Ankawa/Erbil © Ankawa.com)
Thousands of people left their homes quickly, unable to carry anything with them. Many of them arrived in Erbil on foot, wearing just their pajamas. The refugees recounted tragic stories: in Qaraqosh a woman was killed along with her mother and her two children, while in Tall Keyf a young man died from wounds caused by shelling. Besides the plight of the refugees, there is great pain and fear affecting the 100,000 Kurdistan Christians, living mainly in Erbil, Duhok, Zahko, Sulaymaniyah and Amadiya.
According to ACN’s source, chances of an IS attack on Kurdistan are low, as the area is well protected militarily. Even so, Kurdistan Christians are frightened by what happened to their fellow believers in Mosul and on the Nineveh Plains and fear for the future of their country. "Many families have been here for decades and no one ever thought about leaving before the latest developments. Unlike what happened in other areas of Iraq, in Kurdistan Christians benefited from considerable safety, security and wealth.”
“Many of them have money and can afford to leave and probably they will because they are tired of suffering. They think of their children’s future and they’ve been told by relatives who have emigrated abroad that they will find peace,” the source added.
In his opinion, the current situation and the likely ongoing fighting could lead to the elimination of Christianity from Iraq: “An intervention might mean waiting another 10 years for a better future. There will be only ruins and rebuilding will take time and cause much suffering. Iraqis are exhausted and they wonder whether they’d be better off waiting in another country for the situation to change.”
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is giving emergency aid of $US130,000 to support Iraqi Christians who fled to Erbil after new attacks over the 6th & 7th of August in the Christian capital of Iraq – Quaracosh – and in the Nineveh plains. To help the Christians in Iraq and in the Middle-East please click on the website link www.aidtochurch.org and go to the Donation page.
(Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako © Aid to the Church in Need)
Below is the latest Appeal sent out by Patriarch Sako of the Chaldean Church and President of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Iraq.
In this urgent declaration of the Patriarch believes it is important to inform the media and politicians worldwide that it is not just the Yezidis fleeing IS persecution but also Christians who are in dire straits and need urgent help.
THE ALARMING SITUATION OF THE REFUGEES - WARNS A DISASTER MORE DREADFUL
10th August 2014
Death and sickness are grabbing the children and elderly people among the thousands of refugee families spread over the Kurdistan Region who lost everything in the recent tragic developments while the ISIS Militants are still advancing and the humanitarian aid is insufficient.
There are seventy thousand displaced Christians in Ankawa along with the other minorities in this city that has a population of more than twenty-five thousand Christians. The families who found shelter inside the churches or schools are in a rather good condition while those who are still sleeping in the streets and public parks are in a deplorable situation…
In Dohuk, the number of Christian refugees' amount to more than 60.000 and their situation is worse than those in Erbil. There are also families who found shelters in Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah, as well as some have arrived as far as in the capital city of Baghdad.
While the humanitarian needs are escalating: housing, food, water, medicine and funds, the lack of international coordination is slowing and limiting the realization of an effective assistance to these thousands awaiting immediate support. The Churches are offering everything within their capacity.
To summarize the situation of the Christian villages around Mosul up to the borders of Kurdistan Region: the churches are deserted and desecrated; five bishops are out of their bishoprics, the priests and nuns left their missions and institutions leaving everything behind, the families have fled with their children abandoning everything else! The level of disaster is extreme.
The position of the American president Obama only to give military assistance to protect Erbil is disappointing. The talks about dividing Iraq are threatening. The Americans are not up to a rapid solution to give hope specifically as they are not going to attack the ISIS in Mosul and in the Nineveh Plain. The confirmation that this terrible situation will continue until the Iraqi Security Forces will fight along with Peshmerga against the ISIS militants is very depressing. The President of the Kurdistan Region said that the Kurdish troops are fighting with a terrorist State and not minor groups! While the country is under fire, the politicians in Baghdad are fighting for power.
At the end, perhaps, Mosul will not be liberated neither the villages in the Nineveh Plain. There is no strategy to dry up the sources of manpower and the resources of these Islamic terrorists. They control the oil town of Zumar and the oil fields of Ain Zalah and Batma along with the oil fields of Al-Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in Syria. The Islamic extremist fighters are joining them from different countries around the world.
The choices of refugee families:
Migration: where and do they have the necessary documents and money?
To stay: in the halls and in the refugee camps, waiting the summer to end and winter to come? Will the schools be reopened and will their children go to elementary schools, high schools or colleges? Will they be welcomed in the schools in Erbil, Duhok and Sulaymaniyah? What is the future of the properties and belongings, along with the jobs, of these thousands of innocent people forced to fee overnight from their dear villages?
These are questions that should inflict pain in the conscience of every person and organization so that something should be done to save this people that have their history in this land from their beginnings.
+Louis Raphael Sako
Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon
President of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Iraq
Baghdad – Iraq
ACN is inviting people from all over the world to express their solidarity towards Iraqi Christians and to give a face to their support. For this purpose the website www.wearechristians.info
has been launched under the title: “We are all Christians in Iraq”. On the website, friends of this cause can leave their name and photo, via a mouse click, to show their support for the Christians in Iraq.
United with the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, this initiative accompanies the charity’s invitation to Prayer for Peace in Iraq. The invitation is addressed to “all people of good will”. Patriarch Sako writes: "To build peace we should be courageous! We need our brothers and sisters in the West to give us a moment of fraternal sharing, and help us to feel that we are one Church and one family. We need communion of heart and prayer with our faithful in this great event. May the Lord give us the strength to hold this great tragedy! May He preserve all hearts from hatred and violence!"
The Prayer, written by Patriarch Sako can be found below. Please join ACN in prayer for our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq.
the plight of our country
is deep and the suffering of the Christians
is heavy and frightening us,
therefore we ask you Lord
to assign our lives, grant us patience and courage
to continue to witness our Christian values
with trust and hope.
Lord, peace is the base of any life;
give us peace and stability
to live with each other without fear, anxiety,
with dignity and joy, glory to you forever.
† Louis Raphael I Sako
[Chaldean Catholic Patriarch]
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