Category Archives: Iraq

IRAQ: Needed – An international strategy in Iraq

by David Cortwright, God’s Politics Blog

IraqCrisis-smallThe crisis in Iraq poses two challenges — a humanitarian effort to rescue persecuted minorities, and a security mission to suppress the extremist threat posed by the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The U.S. is right to play a leading role in aiding the Yazidis, Christians, and other threatened minorities in Iraq. The immediate threat against the Yazidis has eased, but minority groups in the region remain endangered by violent extremism. The Obama administration should work through the United Nations to turn this into a genuine international rescue effort. The greater the degree of international participation and support for the aid mission, the more beneficial and legitimate it will be for the recipients.

The U.S. is also right to call attention to the threat posed by ISIS, but we need to do more to mobilize international pressure against the group. The Islamic State is in many respects more dangerous than al Qaeda. It has conquered Mosul and other major cities, taken control of dams and oil facilities, and is steadily expanding its sphere of influence in Syria and Iraq. It has formed a terrorist army with an estimated 10,000 fighters and is now armed with tanks and advanced U.S. weapons stolen from the Iraqi army. The group poses a significant threat to the security of the region and the world.

The Obama administration does not appear to have a coherent strategy for countering the Islamic State and has made no effort to organize effective international cooperation in this effort through the United Nations…

Click here to read this entire article.

STATEMENT: PC International member organizations on the crisis in northern Iraq

pcilogonewfrom Pax Christi International

On Thursday 14 August, Pax Christi Member Organisations in Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States have sent letters to their Ministers of Foreign Affairs calling for an immediate action to safeguard the right of life of all vulnerable populations in Northern Iraq.

IraqCrisis-smallPax Christi members are extremely concerned with shocking reports of displacement of peoples and mass slaughter threatened by the self-proclaimed Islamic State against numerous minority groups in Iraq. The news coming from the country is horrendous: thousands of people, mostly minority groups including Christians, Yazidis, Shabak and Turkmen have been brutally driven from their homes; innocent children, women and men are suffering violence of every kind. The ongoing conflict has already displaced some 1.2 million people, mostly minority communities who have fled the northwest of Iraq.

Pax Christi Member Organisations made an appeal on three counts to safeguard the right of life of all vulnerable populations in Northern Iraq:

  • to act to protect people by moving them to places of safety – either within Iraq or outside its borders. This should include the possibility of accepting Iraqi refugees in their own countries.
  • to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those who are displaced, either within Iraq or outside its borders.
  • to actively support a solution which can only be legitimated by the United Nations and not by individual states.

The letters also asked that international leaders should remain alert to events taking place in Iraq and should commit to supporting the Iraqi efforts to end this cycle of violence. The international community, working through the United Nations, should support Iraq on guaranteeing a framework in which the life and dignity of all Iraqis are respected.

Pax Christi members regret that religion is being misused in this crisis. Faith should not be used to demonize people of other faiths. Religious beliefs should nurture justice, human dignity, compassion and solidarity. Pax Christi supports urgent recent appeals from Patriarch Louis Sako I in Iraq and echo the call made by Pope Francis: “War is not to be waged in the name of God!”

REFLECTION: Making bad situations worse in the Middle East

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

The heart wrenching tragedies throughout the Middle East are not the United States’ fault, that is, at least not entirely.

The fact that many Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims distrust each other, that the Allies established artificial national boundaries to suite their interests after World War I, and that ruthless dictators past and present have often oppressed their people are major reasons why much of the Middle East is broken and bleeding.  

But the U.S. has made several bad situations in the Middle East far worse.

Iraqi sisters look over the damage at a church in northern Iraq.

Iraqi sisters look over the damage at a church in northern Iraq.

In Egypt, according to the Congressional Research Service, since 1987 the U.S. has given that nation $1.3 billion per year in military aid despite the fact that it was long ruled by the dictator Hosni Mubarak.  

Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, its refusal to allow subjugated Palestinians to form an independent nation, and the strangling blockade and brutal invasion of Gaza would not be possible without the approximate $3 billion in annual American aid and the United States’ refusal to demand that Israel reverse course here.

While it is a sad truth that under the dictator Saddam Hussein many Iraqis suffered, it is an even sadder truth that the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq, caused even greater suffering to countless Iraqis.

After nearly nine years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children, women and men are dead, over 4,480 American troops were killed, and Iraq overall is in a far worse state.

Furthermore, the U.S. war with Iraq unleashed deadly Islamist attacks upon thousands of Iraqi Christians.

In a CBS 60 Minutes segment, Rev. Andrew White, an Anglican priest who has a long history of ministry in Iraq, said the situation there was clearly worse for Christians than under the Saddam Hussein regime.

And according to a Fox News report earlier this year, Fr. White said that in the past five years 1,096 of his own parishioners were killed.

He said that out of the 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq in 2003, only around 200,000 remain.

And now with the Islamic State controlling a large part of Iraq, the remaining Christian population is suffering even worse.

There can be no doubt that the U.S. invasion of Iraq made a bad situation far worse. 

Please help our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ by giving a generous donation to Catholic Near East Welfare Association (www.cnewa.org).  

And urge your congressional delegation and President Obama (www.whitehouse.gov) to grant emergency asylum to at least 300,000 Christians and other minorities fleeing the barbarism of the Islamic State. Yes, this would be a major undertaking, but the U.S. is capable of doing it. It’s mostly just a matter of will – good will.

To its credit, tiny Lebanon, with a population of approximately 6 million people, has according the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, taken in well over 1 million mostly Syrian and Iraqi refugees and asylum-seekers – with over 500,000 more expected by year’s end. That would be equivalent to the U.S. taking in over 50 million refugees and asylum-seekers.

Three years ago, the U.S. led an aerial attack against the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi leaving that nation awash in weapons which continue to help fuel the warring militias that have since been unleashed.

While U.S. bombing helped end Gaddafi’s brutal reign, it didn’t stop the suffering of the Libyan people.

Bombs kill. They do not address the root-causes of conflict. Rather, they perpetuate the cycle of violence. Knowing that full well, and in response to President Barack Obama’s threats to bomb Syria last year, Pope Francis called on people of faith to observe Sept. 7, 2013 as a day of prayer and fasting.

On that day the Holy Father said to over 100,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and to all of us, “Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world!”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

IRAQ: USCCB asks parishes to pray for Iraq on Sunday, August 17

from Zenit.org

IraqCrisis-smallThe chairman of the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) asked the U.S. bishops to invite the people of their dioceses to pray for peace in Iraq on Sunday, August 17. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, made the request, August 6, sending the bishops the text of a prayer written by the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Iraq, His Beatitude Louis Rafael Sako.

Bishop Pates recounted the struggles of Christians and others in Iraq who have faced the destruction, burning and looting of churches, homes and businesses and, under threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) to join their extremist brand of Islam, have fled for their lives. Accordingly, he urged Catholics to let their elected representatives know of their concern that humanitarian assistance reach Christian and other religious minorities who are suffering in Iraq, Syria and other countries.

Bishop Pates also noted Pope Francis’ calls for peace in Iraq and his observation that “violence generates more violence; dialogue is the only path to peace.”…

Click here to see the full text of this article, including Patriarch Sako’s prayer.

REFLECTION: Refugees and Christians in Middle East need our help and support

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by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

The news around the world is tragic and depressing.

The fanatical fighters of the ​Islamic State are gobbling up land and murdering those who believe differently than they do. They are now armed with the American weapons left behind by the Iraqi army, which turned tail when Islamic State fighters arrived in Mosul. So much for years of American training and advice.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad appears incapable of making the compromises that could forge a government of national unity. And will the Iranians make matters worse by intervening to protect their allies and co-religious?

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Russian President Vladimir Putin appears poised to invade eastern Ukraine. Neither the downing of MH17 nor Western sanctions have slowed him down. This will not be the walk in the park like his takeover of Crimea, but he does not seem to care if thousands die.

Israel and Hamas have worn each other down with fighting that has caused thousands of deaths and injuries but did not move the region any closer toward sustainable peace….

Read the entire article by clicking here.

IRAQ: Genocide possible if immediate action isn’t taken

from Pax for Peace

IraqCrisis-smallThe humanitarian crisis in Iraq may result in genocide if no immediate action is taken

Note: Pax Christi USA has signed onto this appeal.

Around 40,000 Yezidi Iraqi citizens are stuck in the Sinjar Mountains, left stranded without food and water and surrounded by militants of “The Islamic State” (IS).

The 40,000 Yezidi citizens in the Sinjar mountains are part of a larger number of around 200,000 Yezidis who have fled the Sinjar area, near the border with Syria, on Sunday the 3rd of August when the group that calls itself “Islamic State” (IS) took over their area.

The situation is deteriorating rapidly and immediate action is needed. The UN is not able to evacuate the Yezidi people from the mountains without any military cover, as IS possesses anti-aircraft weapons. For the same reasons, food droppings have proven extremely difficult. The people are completely surrounded and therefore, genocide is looming. The next 24 hours will be crucial in the survival of these people.

According to sources, the Kurdish forces fighting IS have been forced to withdraw from the Ninewa plain entirely, and are currently caught up in battle at the border of Dohuk province, near al-Qosh, a Christian village. The taking over of villages by IS on the night of 6-7 August has resulted in a further 100,000 refugees, mainly Christian Iraqi citizens. The rapid advance of IS is extremely worrisome and provides a real danger to all minorities in North Iraq.

PAX calls for:

  • an immediate convening of the UN Security Council to address the crisis today
  • the acknowledgement of the severity of the situation and the possible result in genocide of around 40,000 Yezidi Iraqi citizens
  • an immediate investigation of the UN security council and member states into the possible options under its Responsibility to Protect (R2P) for the evacuation of the people in the Sinjar mountains and further instruments to protect other communities at risk

Finally, PAX calls for a coordinated international effort to address the advancement of IS in Iraq and Syria in the long term that includes a complete end to the violence, enforcement of sanctions to isolate the Islamic State and bring perpetrators of war crimes to justice.

IRAQ: Global Day of Prayer for Peace in Iraq on August 6

from Zenit

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“Please stop, I ask you with all my heart, it’s time to stop. Stop, please.”

Inspired by these words of Pope Francis (June 27, 2014), the international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, united with His Beatitude Louis Rafael Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Iraq, appeals to all persons of good will to join in a Global Day of Prayer for Peace to be held on August 6, 2014—the Feast of the Transfiguration.

The feast of Transfiguration marks the moment when Jesus, on Mount Tabor, appears to three of his disciples in a state of glory, shortly before His ultimate trial on Calvary. This feast holds out a sign of hope for humanity: it is a source of courage when obstacles appear impossible to surmount; a sign that light is stronger than darkness; and testimony that death can turn into life.

Meant to be observed in churches and homes across the country, this Global Day of Prayer in the midst of so much suffering in Iraq—particularly for the ancient Christian community of Mosul—tells the world at large that US Christians have not forgotten and abandoned their suffering brothers and sisters….

Click here for the rest of this article and a prayer from Patriarch Sako.