martedì, febbraio 21, 2017


Trump right to protect nation with travel ban

Critics have objected to President Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban travel to the U.S. by refugees from seven Middle Eastern countries, alleging 1) their human rights are compromised, and 2) this ban is a Muslim ban.
As an Iraqi-American, I would like to comment on both allegations through my own experience of coming to America as a refugee more than four decades ago. But first let me mention some facts. 
The United States of America is a sovereign country and the world’s superpower. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, illustrated how radical Islamic terrorism is the clear and present danger facing America.
Mr. Trump has no one to apologize to for his immigration doctrine for the simple reason that coming to America is not a right but a privilege, a privilege that is earned by waiting in line for however long it may take to reach America. Americans are therefore consoled by his position that the fundamental duty of the government is protecting Americans from all enemies foreign or domestic by maximally securing the homeland’s borders and, if necessary, also by extremely vetting certain individuals.
In 1973, I left Iraq for Lebanon ultimately wanting to seek political asylum in the U.S., as Saddam Hussein was rising to power in Iraq. While in Lebanon, the Civil War started and tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians got stuck for years, enduring unemployment, poverty and dangers of war. Yet most refugees were thankful to stay in Lebanon while tolerating such conditions for the purpose of reaching America. Most of us waited not for three months but for three years; I know a family who waited 15 years. Ultimately it all paid off when in 1976 the U.S. resettled these Iraqi refugees in the land of the free and home of the brave. 

Being delayed as a refugee is not a new thing. All the previous administrations, since President Carter, delayed numerous refugees and migrants not only for months but also for years. If Americans really believed that coming to America was a universal human right, I assure you that by now the U.S. population might have reached 3 billion, instead of only 325 million.
Lady Liberty has stood tall for decades both representing American values and welcoming immigrants and refugees to America. But, if America is to accomplish her historic vocation by offering her values to newcomers, she must first herself be safe, prosperous and stable. No nation can offer its citizens that which she does not possess.

If America needs to build a wall and vet refugees, then it must be so. If a simple house is to be secured, doesn’t the owner of the house lock the doors at night? What happens if thieves know the door is unlocked? Open borders and easygoing immigration policies are what could inflict the U.S. with the fire that has been burning in the Middle East for centuries. American politicians cannot play with such fire because the losers will be the American people everywhere. Even Bashar Assad, the president of Syria, said recently that there definitely are terrorists who sneak into asylum countries from Syria pretending to be refugees. Securing the U.S. border and vetting refugees brings no damage to Americans in any sense of the word. Today’s Europe is a good lesson to America.
This executive order is applied to refugees coming from those seven countries, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew. This is not a Muslim ban; especially because 90 percent of the world’s Muslims are not included.
If the experience of terrorism on 9/11 was caused by Chinese people, the ban would have been imposed on China; if it were South Americans coming from South America, the ban would have been on South American nations; again, if it were Africans coming from Africa, the ban would have been on African countries. But it is an established fact that since the mid-1990s almost all terrorists were radical Muslim jihadists from the Middle East. More importantly, the seven countries are nations presently undergoing internal wars and have lost bureaucratic control of their populations rendering American consulates unable to check the background of refugees, verify and properly vet every claim made to come to America; jihadists cannot be slipping in our land.
In caring for America’s safety, I am not against refugees, since I was one myself. Being prudent about security and caring for human rights are not mutually exclusive. America shall remain the land of the free and home of the brave, as long as she is secure and safe.

Soro is a bishop with St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Church in El Cajon.

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"Faith has grown stronger among Christians who have escaped Iraq"

We are at the church of St. Tecla in Beirut, Lebanon. Today is not a day of obligation, but the church is still full, mainly with refugees from Iraq; people who have lost everything except their faith. There are families similar to Milad's, who suffers from a shortage of food for her three children, despite the support of the Christian community.
Milad: "What the Church receives, it divides it among the families. But if the Church doesn't receive these donations or help, it cannot help."
In this situation, people like Louis and Hazib play a very fundamental role. They now live in Lebanon after being persecuted in Iraq.
Louis Samih: "We escaped, as you know, from the danger of ISIS. They came to our country and occupied everything. They stayed at our houses, our lands, and even at my pharmacy ... We were afraid that they would kill us.” They lost everything. But now, instead of mourning, they volunteer in various parishes in Beirut, helping other refugees. They have registered over 2,000 Iraqi families in the city, and claim that the persecution has made them stronger.
Hazib Jana: "Having arrived as refugees, we can say that the faith has grown stronger. More people are coming to Church than before.” Hazib and Louis are in charge of helping with bureaucratic procedures, distributing food or money, and being able to maintain a community that suffers in foreign land.
Louis Samih: "There is some discrimination because the Lebanese consider themselves more educated than us, the Iraqis." Unfortunately, most of the Iraqi refugees in Lebanon do not consider returning to their country.
Hazib Jana: "Our hope as Iraqi refugees is to be able to go to countries like America, Canada or Australia and stay there." According to UNHCR, Lebanon is the country with highest refugee status in the world. Almost two out of every 10 inhabitants are in a provisional situation.

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Let us dedicate our Lent Prayers fasting of this Year for Peace

By Chaldean Patriarchate

Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako

In light of the year dedicated for peace that I announced in early 2017, I would like to call on all daughters and sons of the Chaldean Church every where to devote their lent prayers of this year (26 February – 16 April, 2017) for Iraq, and for Iraqis to live in a fair and long-lasting peace.
I call also on dear priests to coordinate with their bishops in: holding joint prayers; organizing a special “way of the Cross”; dialogues; workshops; and different related activities, in order to promote a culture of peace and establish the values of co-existence, primarily in our hearts, so we will be able to share it with others.
Since all nations yearn for peace, then it is everybody's business, particularly clerics, who give peace a priority in their mission. Consequently, peace must be achieved by us as well as by politicians by launching courageous initiatives and making responsible decisions.
At the moment, we are going through the tunnel and ought to work hard and pray with no tiredness or boredom in order to have peace in our country and the region and for the safe return of the forcibly displaced people back to their homes and properties, after having such a bitter experience in camps.
Therefore, they need to join efforts and cooperate with each other so as to build their hometowns spiritually; intellectually; socially; and physically, to live together with respect, freedom, dignity and joy. This is the best solution to attain a true citizenship and full equality among people of the same country.

God bless you in this lent and beyond.

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Aleppo, Mosul & Beyond: What Future do Christians have in the Middle East?

His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II participated in the discussion panel entitled "Aleppo, Mosul and Beyond: What Future do Christians have in the Middle East?" at the Munich Security Conference.
His Eminence Mor Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, Archbishop of Mosul, Kirkuk and Kurdistan Region was also present in the discussion panel.
The panel was sponsored by the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the discussions were moderated by the German Ambassador to Luxembourg Dr. Heinrich Kreft.
His Holiness spoke about the different experiences that our people had in our homeland in Iraq and Syria, resulting in the migration of many. He spoke about the current situation as well as the relief efforts that the Church is doing to encourage the faithful to remain in the homeland.
His Holiness also spoke about the diverse projects implemented by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch with the help of St. Ephrem Patriarchal Development Committee (EPDC) and through the support of many international organizations and foundations.
His Holiness gave suggestions to help the Christians remain in their homeland and survive the genocide that aimed at forcing our people to migrate.

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lunedì, febbraio 20, 2017


Premio fondazione Franz König. Patriarca Sako: "Un onore per me, per la nazione irachena e per la chiesa caldea"

By Baghdadhope*

Assegnato al patriarca della chiesa caldea, Mar Louis Raphael I Sako,  il premio intitolato al Cardinale Franz König

Il premio è stato riconosciuto in virtù degli "straordinari meriti del Patriarca nella protezione dei diritti dei cristiani orientali, fedeli testimoni del Vangelo di Cristo da 2000 anni." 
A consegnare il premio a Mar Sako è stato il neo presidente  della Fondazione
Mons. Manfred Scheuer, vescovo di Linz (Austria).

Il premio ha previsto la consegna di 10.000 Euro che il Patriarca ha assegnato al seminario maggiore come contributo alla formazione dei sacerdoti iracheni.
Di seguito il testo pervenuto a Baghdadhope dell'omelia pronunciata da Mar Sako  alla fine della messa da lui celebrata ed alla quale ha partecipato la delegazione austriaca che oltre che da Mons. Scheuer era formata dal presidente della fondazione viennese Pro-Oriente Johann Marte, e da quello della Initiative Christerlicher Orient und Freunde des Turabdin, (ICO) Dechant Slawomir Dadas.
Questo premio non è stato riconosciuto solo a me: è un onore per la nazione irachena che soffre da anni ed un onore per la Chiesa caldea che tanto si è impegnata a favore del dialogo, della riconciliazione e della pace, e che ha aiutato migliaia di sfollati cristiani, musulmani e yazidi.
Un grazie di cuore va quindi alla Fondazione Cardinale  Franz König.  Questo premio è un incoraggiamento per tutti  coloro che lavorano per  il dialogo e la pace, e per quanto mi riguarda il riconoscimento della mia determinazione nel proseguire nella missione di  diffondere sempre di più la cultura dell’apertura, del dialogo ecumenico e della buona convivenza fra tutti. Tutti temi cari proprio al Cardinale König che fu creatore della fondazione Pro Oriente per il dialogo fra  le chiese orientali, una fondazione di successo di cui sono membro da più di 15 anni e dai cui incontri ho imparato che ascoltare, capire e cercare il dialogo è base fondamentale della fede.

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Offensiva su Mosul. Padre Ghazwan: civili senza cibo né acqua

By Radiovaticana
Gabriella Ceraso

La pace invocata ieri all’Angelus dal Papa per l’Iraq sembra oggi ancora lontana. Ci vorranno almeno tre mesi, secondo fonti militari, perché si concluda l’offensiva avviata dall’esercito del premier al-Abadi contro i miliziani dell’Is asserragliati nella parte occidentale di Mosul. Quest’ ultima roccaforte finora è sembrata inespugnabile dai raid della coalizione internazionale, ma il timore maggiore riguarda ancora una volta i 650mila civili che vi sono intrappolati. 
“Spazzeremo via Al Baghdadi”. E’ questa la promessa del governo iracheno che a 4 mesi dall’inizio della grande offensiva sulla Piana di Ninive e a un mese dalla liberazione dei quartieri orientali di Mosul ieri ha lanciato con tank, blindati e cacciabombardieri, l’assalto più difficile sulla riva destra di Mosul. Già bonificate le prime aree, ma ci vorranno almeno tre mesi nonostante si fosse parlato inzialmente di poche settimane per eliminare l’Is. Perché tanta lentezza e ancora tanti morti?
L’analisi di Armando Sanguigni, consigliere dell’Istituto di Studi di politica internazionale:
Si sarebbe dovuto partire molto prima: il tempo non perdona. Secondo: quello che sta avvenendo a Mosul è un po’ lo specchio delle contraddizioni dell’Iraq, nel senso che coloro che vogliono liberare Mosul hanno agende diverse e in parte contraddittorie e vogliono usare Mosul come chiave per catturare di più, la grossa preda che è l’Iraq nel suo insieme e il suo ruolo; e lì debbo dire che l’istanza iraniana è sicuramente quella più minacciosa.
Cacciato l’Is da Mosul, l’Iraq è libero?
Vinto militarmente l’Is, ci sarà da affrontare il tema di come sradicare le ragioni che lo hanno creato e alimentato. E lì debbo dire che la faglia politico-settaria è la massima responsabile di tutto quello che sta avvenendo, con la complicità di tanti anni di disastrosa cogestione americano-irachena. E’ chiaro che la gente ha paura del dopo, perché il dopo di chi sarà? Sarà di chi ha usato Mosul per imporre il proprio dominio politico o no? E questa è una grave domanda, perché oggi al-Abadi, l’attuale premier, sicuramente non è in grado di gestire un Paese, neanche in una configurazione federale, perché il vero dramma non è più sui curdi, che in Iraq vivono ben diversamente che in Siria, ma tra sunniti e sciiti. E lì, se non c’è una capacità politica di restituire al popolo iracheno la vera sovranità, si andrà verso una situazione molto, ma molto complicata.

Intanto dove l’Is passa tutto è raso al suolo e l’esercito farà altrettanto: l’Onu teme per gli sfollati di Mosul ma in realtà la popolazione per ora è in trappola, sfruttata e abusata,ci racconta il parroco di Alqosh, a pochi chilometri da Mosul, padre Ghazwan Baho:
Speriamo che sia l’ultima battaglia contro l’Is in questa città. La parte ovest della riva del Tigri è più popolata, conta circa un milione di persone. Soffrono veramente per tutto. Non c’è più cibo, non c’è più acqua … Però le persone non possono scappare perché c’è il fiume e chiunque prova a farlo, viene ucciso dall’Is. Quindi, in questo momento, non ci sono vie di uscita da questa città.
Ma sappiamo che l’Onu sta preparando dei campi di accoglienza …
Sì, questo accadrà quando l’esercito prenderà una parte di questa città e aprirà della vie d’uscita per le gente.
Voi, che avete già vissuto la liberazione di Mosul Est, che idea vi siete fatti? Può riuscire un’operazione del genere?
Sì può riuscire, però ci saranno tante vittime come è già accaduto nella parte Est di Mosul. Speriamo che i tempi siano più veloci rispetto a prima; dicono entro i tre mesi.
Il vostro timore maggiore è per il dopo Mosul. Molti pensano ancora di partire, ma ci sono anche poche famiglie che tornano a popolare città liberate dall’Is: sono poche, ma è un segnale. Ed è la fede a dare ai cristiani la forza oltre che la vicinanza del Papa:
La voce del Papa arriva sempre, soprattutto in questi momenti. Il patriarca è sempre in contatto con Roma. Noi sabato sera, dopo la Messa, abbiamo fatto una processione verso una collina, dove abbiamo posto una croce alta 12 metri. Abbiamo pregato tutta la notte, perché questa croce è la nostra salvezza, è la nostra forza.

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venerdì, febbraio 17, 2017


Meeting of the Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions (CELRA) in Jordan

By Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Myriam Ambroselli

The Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions (CELRA) met in Jordan on February 13 to 15, 2017. It was an opportunity for the Bishops and Vicars to share the specific challenges in their respective countries and to unify their work. 
Present during the annual meeting were the Latin Bishops of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, Egypt, Djibouti, Somalia, Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula, which was held at the Visitation House of the Rosary Sisters in Dabouq (Amman-Fuheis), Jordan.
The Bishops and Vicars of the Latin Patriarchate: Archbishop  Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator; Bishop Shomali, Vicar in Jordan; Bishop Marcuzzo, Vicar in Israel;  Fr. David Neuhaus,SJ, Vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics and responsible for the Pastoral among migrants; Fr. Kraj, OFM, Vicar in Cyprus were joined by Bishop Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia; Bishop Zaki, Apostolic Vicar of Alexandria in Egypt;  Archbishop Sleiman of Iraq; and Bishop Abu Khazen of Syria.  The two Apostolic Nuncios also participated in the meetings:  Archbishop Ortega Martin in Iraq and Jordan, and Archbishop  Lazzarotto in Israel and Apostolic Delegate for Jerusalem and Palestine, who is the Acting President of CELRA since the retirement of Patriarch Twal.
During these three days, the Bishops and Vicars presented and discussed their pastoral ministry in every country and the present socio-political situation.  Among the testimonies were the poignant narratives of Archbishop Slleiman of Iraq, Bishop  Abu Khazen of Syria (resident in Aleppo), Bishop Adel Zaki of Egypt. Bishop Paul Hinder whose jurisdiction covers Yemen, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, spoke of the challenges brought about by the huge community of migrants from Asia and Africa and his concern for the small Christian community that remains in Yemen despite the war.
In the absence of a Latin Patriarch, who is the  President of CELRA, the Bishops elected Archbishop Pizzaballa as Vice President.  The meeting was also an opportunity  for a re-reading of the statutes and regulations of the CELRA established fifty years ago. The Bishops then diligently reviewed the official liturgical texts of the rite of marriage in Arabic and the new altar missal to be sent to Rome for final approval.
The three days of work concluded at the Nunciature in Amman, where the participants were welcomed by Bishop Ortega Martin over lunch.
The next meeting is scheduled for late January – early February 2018, most likely to be held  in Egypt.

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Qaraqosh: après l’occupation de l’EI

By Liberation
Marta Bellingreri

Des frigos brûlés, des murs incendiés, des ventilateurs fondus. Le squelette d’un berceau abandonné et la maquette intacte d’un voilier dans une chambre pillée. Voilà ce qu’il reste de Qaraqosh, la plus grande ville d’Irak à majorité chrétienne dans la région de Mossoul, après deux ans d’occupation des jihadistes de l’Etat islamique (EI). Une dévastation quasi totale. L’organisation a été chassée par l’armée irakienne en octobre, quelques jours après le début de la grande offensive pour reprendre Mossoul et sa région, toujours en cours. La ville, qui comptait environ 50 000 habitants avant l’occupation de 2014, est toujours déserte. Seulement peuplée par les militaires irakiens qui contrôlent la zone et quelques personnes impatientes de revoir leurs maisons, moyennant un permis spécial.

Les jihadistes ont aussi laissé derrière eux diverses 
traces de leur passage, tel ce drapeau peint au mur. 
(Photo Alessio Mamo pour Libération)
Quelques jours après la libération, lors d’une messe donnée dans une église d’un camp de réfugiés irakiens chrétiens à Erbil, abuna George («père George») a lancé un appel. Prêtre originaire de Qaraqosh, rentré en Irak après des années en Italie, il a proposé de se rendre dans la ville tout juste libérée pour documenter ce que l’EI a laissé derrière lui. C’est ainsi qu’avec abuna George et une dizaine de photographes, nous nous sommes rendus sur place. Toutes les maisons étaient dévastées, comme après une longue bataille. La reprise du lieu a pourtant été relativement rapide. Les jihadistes ont passé deux ans à profaner les églises et tous les signes de foi chrétienne. C’est surtout l’esprit de vengeance des derniers jours qui a poussé l’EI à incendier presque tous les bâtiments, publics ou privés, avant de quitter la ville. Pas seulement les églises, mais chaque demeure, jardin, commerce, monastère, couvent… Même le cimetière. Difficile d’imaginer une telle désolation.
Avec le groupe de photographes, nous avons visité près de 500 bâtiments, dont certains étaient encore récemment habités par l’Etat islamique. L’odeur de poussière et de feu, la cendre partout, les éclats de verre par terre, rendent le passage difficile. Tout comme les mines non explosées ou le risque de tomber nez à nez avec des jihadistes embusqués. Les plafonds menaçaient de s’effondrer, les murs étaient calcinés. Pour les habitants, l’impatience de regagner leur ville se mêle à l’angoisse d’une stabilité difficile à retrouver, en tant que minorité chrétienne en Irak. A Qaraqosh, nous avons été confrontés à la folie destructrice. Mais surtout, à la résilience d’un peuple qui veut reconstituer sa vie, et son foyer.

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Iraq: patriarca Younan, “è in atto un genocidio dei cristiani. In gioco c’è la nostra sopravvivenza come comunità siro-cattolica”


“Non è una questione di persecuzione contro individui, quello che è in atto in Iraq è un genocidio dei cristiani. In gioco c’è la nostra stessa sopravvivenza come comunità siro-cattolica”. È l’accusa lanciata dal patriarca siro-cattolico Ignace Youssif III Younan, in un’intervista pubblicata dal settimanale diocesano novarese “L’Azione” in preparazione agli incontri che nel fine settimana vedranno la partecipazione, nella diocesi di Novara, dello stesso Younan.
“Dal 2014 la nostra comunità vive sradicata dalla Piana di Ninive, ha passato il terzo Natale nei campi profughi con questa atmosfera di desolazione. Non sappiamo quando le varie comunità cristiane potranno tornare nelle loro case”, racconta il patriarca, rilevando che “non sappiamo come convincere la nostra gioventù a farsi coraggio, tornare nelle loro terre e vivere la speranza cristiana”. “La comunità siro-cattolica rischia di scomparire o di vivere completamente sradicata dalla propria terra e di perdere la propria identità”,  prosegue Younan, secondo cui “la gente non vede la possibilità di tornare: se emigreranno in Australia o in Canada, il Medio Oriente resterà privo di una componente fondamentale della sua storia, e questi Paesi saranno deprivati di un fattore cruciale per il pluralismo, il rispetto delle differenze,la moderazione nel mondo islamico”.
I numeri parlano chiaro: “tutta la popolazione della nostra diocesi è stata cacciata ed è la più perseguitata dai miliziani dell’Isis: di 12mila famiglie più della metà sono in Kurdistan come profughi, altre 5mila hanno ripiegato in Libano” dove “abbiamo anche 1.300 famiglie siriane, altrettante in Giordania e circa 700 famiglie in Turchia”.
Il patriarca due mesi fa è tornato in visita in Iraq: “ovunque ho trovato non solo la devastazione che ci aspettavamo ma i segni dell’odio religioso: prima di andarsene i jihadisti hanno bruciato la metà delle case e delle chiese”.
Younan punta il dito contro la coalizione internazionale: “in questi anni l’Occidente ha perseguito solo e unicamente i propri interessi geopolitici. Dobbiamo riconoscere che la Russia è stata più seria di altre nazioni: sono gli unici che hanno realmente contrastato i jihadisti”. “L’ho già detto in passato – conclude – noi cristiani orientali siamo stati traditi e venduti dall’Occidente per il petrolio”.

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Medio Oriente: mons. Dal Toso, “Chiesa cattolica in Iraq e Siria assiste oltre 4 milioni di persone. Negli ultimi tre anni investimenti per 560 milioni di dollari”


Papa Francesco ha molto a cuore la situazione dell’amata Siria”: lo ha ricordato mons. Giampietro Dal Toso, segretario delegato del dicastero per il Servizio dello sviluppo umano integrale, durante la presentazione, oggi a Roma, del progetto “Ospedali aperti” in Siria, ideato dalla Fondazione Avsi con la collaborazione della Fondazione Policlinico universitario Agostino Gemelli di Roma. “Sono stato recentemente ad Aleppo – ha affermato mons. Dal Toso – e il Papa al mio ritorno ha voluto vedermi per sapere nel dettaglio la situazione. Il Papa ha una attenzione speciale per la Siria”.
Il progetto prevede il sostegno a tre strutture cattoliche, l’ospedale Saint Louis di Aleppo, quello francese e quello italiano di Damasco. “Da parte nostra – ha aggiunto il segretario – abbiamo sempre cercato di tenere uniti i diversi soggetti cattolici presenti in Siria e in questo progetto vedo un grande segno di speranza, è importante sostenerlo. Se è vero che ci sono tanti disastri è anche vero che ci sono dei segni che danno speranza. Non guardiamo solo a ciò che non va, ma pensiamo a dire che come Chiesa cattolica possiamo aprire una prospettiva verso il futuro. Questo è il nostro compito più importante. Urge ricostruire gli edifici ma anche le persone. L’ospedale è un progetto nato dal Cristianesimo, è il luogo dove si cura il corpo e lo spirito”.
Mons. Dal Toso ha inoltre ribadito l’impegno della Chiesa cattolica in Siria e in Iraq: “negli ultimi due anni abbiamo aiutato oltre 4 milioni di persone. Negli ultimi tre anni abbiamo avuto un investimento di 560 milioni di dollari”.

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L’Arcivescovo di Mosca Mons. Pezzi: “Occorre dare spazio alla testimonianza dei Cristiani perseguitati”

Un anno fa Papa Francesco e il Patriarca di Mosca Kirill si sono incontrati nell’aeroporto internazionale dell’Avana. Il Card. Kurt Koch e il Metropolita Hilarion Alfeyev a Friburgo, in Svizzera, hanno celebrato il primo anniversario dello storico evento. Nella Dichiarazione comune siglata dal Pontefice Romano e dal Primate Ortodosso si cita fra l’altro la volontà comune di difendere i Cristiani perseguitati in Medio Oriente. ACS-Italia ha chiesto a S.E. Mons. Paolo Pezzi, Arcivescovo cattolico della Madre di Dio a Mosca, quali siano le iniziative più urgenti da assumere per sostenere i fedeli di quell’area, in particolare Siria ed Iraq. “In diversi incontri avuti con rappresentanti del Patriarcato di Mosca, e anche con l’aiuto di ACS, abbiamo verificato anzitutto la necessità di pregare e far pregare per i Cristiani perseguitati in Medio Oriente. In secondo luogo occorre dare spazio alla loro testimonianza. Le informazioni e le testimonianze che riceviamo vengono diffuse. In collaborazione con ACS si vorrebbe anche provvedere a una monitorizzazione della situazione delle comunità cristiane e dei luoghi di culto, al fine di valutare una priorità di urgenze di interventi.”.
In merito al rispetto della libertà religiosa nella Federazione Russa Mons. Pezzi afferma che “alcune modifiche alla legge vigente, avvenute lo scorso anno, ci hanno posto delle serie preoccupazioni, e la necessità di prendere provvedimenti riguardo alla attività missionaria, ma al momento non abbiamo seri segnali di gravi violazioni del diritto alla libertà religiosa.”.
L’Arcivescovo di Mosca ricorda poi i principali progetti pastorali sostenuti grazie ai benefattori ACS: “il Seminario Maggiore Maria Regina degli Apostoli, a San Pietroburgo, l’attività pastorale delle suore e alcuni eventi ecumenici. Il Seminario è l’unico luogo di formazione dei futuri sacerdoti per la Chiesa cattolica in Russia, ed è sostenuto unicamente da offerte. Fin dall’inizio della sua attività nel 1994, ACS si fa carico di una parte considerevole delle spese ordinarie, e negli ultimi anni ci ha aiutato nella riorganizzazione e ristrutturazione del Seminario stesso, che in Russia è uno degli edifici storici più importanti per la Chiesa cattolica e non solo. Per noi è molto importante avere un luogo di formazione in loco” per non essere costretti a “mandare i nostri seminaristi all’estero. La Fondazione, prosegue l’Arcivescovo, “sostiene poi l’attività pastorale ordinaria delle suore nelle parrocchie, e i nostri impegni per una comune testimonianza della fede cristiana soprattutto con la Chiesa ortodossa. Non vanno poi dimenticate altre iniziative, anche di consistente aiuto finanziario, che si sono realizzate in questi anni grazie ad ACS”, come ad esempio “costruzione e ristrutturazione di chiese e cappelle.”.
La Fondazione negli ultimi mesi, e precisamente dal 29 settembre 2016, ha approvato progetti in accordo con le diocesi della Federazione Russa per quasi 485.000 euro.

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Rapporto-shock di Human Rights Watch: villaggi cristiani della Piana di Ninive saccheggiati e bruciati da milizie anti-jihadiste

By Fides

Milizie armate “spontanee” e gruppi paramilitari impegnati nella lotta contro i jihadisti dell'auto-proclamato Stato islamico (Daesh) sono responsabili di saccheggi, devastazioni e roghi di interi quartieri in almeno quattro villaggi nelle aree adiacenti a Mosul, azioni perpetrate dopo che le cittadine erano state ormai abbandonate dalle milizie del Califfato.
E' questo lo scenario che emerge da un dettagliato report raccolto da Human Rights Watch (HRW). Incrociando i racconti di molti testimoni oculari, e servendosi anche del riscontro di foto satellitari delle aree interessate, l'organizzazione internazionale impegnata nella difesa dei diritti umani ha potuto verificare che a saccheggiare e devastare interi quartieri delle città da poco sottratte al controllo deI Daesh sono stati proprio gruppi armati e milizie di “auto-protezione popolare” che adesso rivendicano il ruolo avuto nella campagna di “liberazione” dall'occupazione jihadista. I saccheggi e le devastazioni sarebbero avvenuti tra novembre 2016 e febbraio 2017, senza apparente giustificazione dal punto di vista militare. Tra i gruppi indicati come responsabili di saccheggi e distruzioni, a giudizio di Human Rights Watch ci sarebbero anche le forze di mobilitazione popolare conosciute come Hashd al-Sha'abi, unità che accreditano contatti diretti con il primo ministro iracheno Haydar al-Abadi.
A sud-ovest di Mosul, Human Rights Watch ha documentato saccheggi ed estesa demolizione di edifici in tre villaggi anche attraverso l'uso di esplosivi e bulldozer. Nel villaggio di Ashwa sarebbe stata distrutta senza motivo anche la moschea più grande. Alle accuse di Human Rights Watch, i rappresentanti di Hashd al-Sha'abi hanno risposto parlando di trappole esplosive che i jihadisti del Daesh avrebbero lasciato innescate per poi provocare distruzioni di case e edifici pubblici dopo la propria ritirata. Ma diversi racconti di testimoni oculari raccolti da HRW sembrano smentire tale versione.
Tra le città saccheggiate e messe a farro e fuoco dopo la ritirata di Daesh c'è anche il villaggio di Qaraqosh, che prima di cadere in mano ai jihadisti era abitato interamente da cristiani, e quello misto cristiano-sunnita di al-Khidir. Nel report di HRW si indicano anche le Unità di protezione della Piana di Ninive – formate in parte da cristiani assiri - tra i gruppi militari di auto-protezione responsabili del controllo di tali villaggi, dopo che essi sono stati abbandonati dai jihadisti. Testimoni ascoltati da HRW, che avevano potuto visitare le proprie case nelle cittadine abbandonate già a novembre dai miliziani di Daesh, hanno confermato di aver ritrovato a febbraio le loro case saccheggiate o distrutte.
Da Qaraqosh e da altri villaggi della Piana di Ninive, circa 60mila cristiani locali erano fuggiti precipitosamente nella notte tra il 6 ed il 7 agosto 2014, quando l’esercito curdo Peshmerga si era improvvisamente ritirato davanti all'avanzare delle milizie dell'autoproclamato Stato Islamico.

By HRW: Iraq: Looting, Destruction by Forces Fighting ISIS 

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giovedì, febbraio 16, 2017


Iraqi Christian couple despair at sight of house IS destroyed

Hathem and Almas are hoping to be among the first people to return to Karamles, a now-deserted town in the Nineveh Plains of northern Iraq.
“This is our town, where I always lived. I would like to sleep here every day,” says Hathem, who fled with his wife to Erbil when Islamic State (IS) invaded Karamles as part of its August 2014 offensive.
But the Christian couple’s hopes are unrealistic. Although liberated from IS occupation in October 2016, a walk through the town shows why no-one has yet returned.
There are four reasons:

1. Need for security
According to Father Jacoub, a visiting priest from Bartella, another liberated village in the Nineveh Plains, “There needs to be guaranteed security, not only on a local level but nationwide.”
He remains hopeful that people will return, now that Iraqi government forces have retaken the area and removed what he calls the “dark cloud” that covered the Christian villages during IS occupation.
2. Continued military and militia presence in some residential areas
The Nineveh Plains are very close to Mosul, still partially in the hands of Islamic State, and some areas remain out of bounds to civilians.
3. Lack of infrastructure
There is no electricity or water supply – pumps stopped working and there is no access to wells – and there are no shops for even basic provisions.
4. Destruction of homes
IS soldiers set fire to property as they pulled out during the liberation. Many houses collapsed, some are just shells, and families can’t always afford to rebuild them. Father Jacoub says that there is no logic in going back yet.
A glimmer of hope is the Centre for Support and Encouragement, being created by Father Thabet, a colleague of Father Jacoub. Although not yet open, it will be a place where people can stay while they restore their homes. He plans to buy a generator to give people power for their tools and machinery, and will supply visitors with free bottled water.
Hathem and Almas, both in their 30s, are members of Father Thabet’s church. Hathem has been helping the priest with his initiative. The couple bump into Father Thabet and reflect on what happened to Karamles as they walk through some of its ancient streets.
The town of 10,000 people – 6500 families – emptied almost overnight as people fled the jihadists. Looking to the sky, the three see fighter jets as they make bombing runs on IS positions in Mosul, just 20 miles away. They hear the explosions, and see the thick black smoke.
Hathem and Almas show Father Thabet round their former home, now just a blackened shell. They collect a few of their charred belongings in plastic bags.
The couple lived here with their six children and Hathem’s three sisters. They stand in what was once their living room. Everything is black and still smells of smoke. “We had sofas over there,” Almas says, “and beautiful pictures on the walls”. She says it with little emotion, although admits that “somedays I laugh, other days I cry”.
“That was the pram,” Hathem says, pointing to an iron frame. In a bedroom upstairs, only a steel bedframe survives, distorted from intense heat.
Hathem, an experienced builder, knows the house cannot be restored. “The fire has destroyed the structure of the floor; it isn’t safe. The fire must have been strong,” he says.
Outside the house, Hathem explains that he used to keep beehives and points to where he grew flowers. He’d lived in the house since 1988. He says he doesn’t have the money to restore it. “This is all lost because of an ugly war,” he says.
Father Thabet has been keen to give the people of Karamles signs of hope. In December he put a Christmas tree in front of the church and when he visits his church he likes to ring the bells. “To the people of Karamles, the bells of this church will sound even better than those of St Peter’s in Rome,” he says.
Before leaving Karamles to drive home, Father Thabet points out the cross he raised on a nearby hill as a beacon of hope. “Maybe I will replace it with a much bigger cross,” he says. “The people should see that Karamles is a Christian village.”
Some Christian families have started returning to homes once occupied by IS. In the eastern parts of Mosul at least three Armenian families have returned to their houses despite the insecurity caused by the ongoing fighting there between IS and Iraqi forces. Also a Chaldean Catholic family returned to Telskuf in January. Naoiq Quliaqus Atto, his wife, brother and three children were welcomed by Father Salar Bodagh, a local priest in charge of the reconstruction committee, who said: “This is a real sign of hope for many more.”
Global charity Open Doors, with others, has produced a detailed report on the vital contribution that Christians make in Iraq. The report’s co-ordinator, Rami*, (not his real name) said: “We need recognition for the vital role of the Church in rebuilding and reconciliation… Maintaining the presence of Christians is not only about them; it is for the good of society as a whole. In the reports and research we’ve conducted, we have mapped, in a way, all the contributions Christians have given to Iraq.”
The way that Open Doors is tackling these issues, Rami told World Watch Monitor in November, involves working with indigenous church leaders, engaging with governments and decision-makers across the globe, and trying to collect One Million Voices in a petition in support of a campaign to bring “Hope to the Middle East”.

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For war refugees, sanctuary in the West isn’t always a happy ending

Richard Hall

For many thousands of people fleeing wars in their home countries, being granted asylum is a happy end to a sad story.
The chaos and heartache caused by US President Donald Trump’s short-lived immigration ban earlier this month showed just how important the right to resettle is for so many, and how it can change lives forever.
But for others, the promised land is not what they imagined. Even after all they go through to make it there, something draws them home again.
That was the case for Rani Khaled Yaqoub, a 26-year-old Christian mother of two from northern Iraq, who escaped ISIS to seek asylum in France. After about two years in Europe, she turned around and traveled all the way back.
“My friends found it weird, and asked why I would want to go back. They asked me to stay there [in France] in case my situation changes,” she says. “But this is about me and my kids. No one experienced what I went through there [in France].”
Yaqoub is not the only one who made such a choice. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) helped more than 12,000 people return to Iraq in 2016 after they had sought asylum abroad. In the first month of 2017, they assisted 500. The group believes many more are coming back on their own, without IOM assistance.
Yaqoub’s move may seem surprising, especially since for her, going back to Iraq didn’t mean a return all the way home. She settled in Erbil, where many of Iraq’s internally displaced have ended up, some 50 miles from the village where she spent most of her life.
Today, she lives in a two-room office on the fifth floor of a newly built shopping mall in Erbil with her sons, 2-year-old Ranel, and 3-year-old Rawad. The mall's lower floors are all hustle and bustle, with clothing stalls spilling out of shops into the narrow walkways. Yaqoub's floor has a dusty and unfinished feel — it is eerily quiet apart from the children who dash in the hallways, pausing occasionally to peer at shoppers in the atrium below.
She first arrived here in August 2014, after fleeing from her hometown of Qaraqosh, not far from Mosul. ISIS fighters were heading their way; some 100,000 Christians from the area escaped with her in the same direction.
“We were told [by Peshmerga fighters in the city] that ISIS approached the area, and no one can stay in the area. So, like everyone else, we packed our stuff and left,” she says. “We thought we would be back in a couple of days.”
ISIS captured the town and ransacked its churches. Not everyone managed to escape. Yaqoub’s husband, Mourad, was a policeman. He and his brother stayed behind in the town as its last line of defense. Later, they too were ordered to leave, but Mourad got caught up in clashes between ISIS and Kurdish forces along the road to Erbil. He was killed in the crossfire.
Yaqoub was seven months pregnant at the time. She had to face starting a new life as a single mother. But the takeover of her town and the death of her husband had traumatized her. She wanted to leave the strange shopping mall and her country behind.
After five months in Erbil, she left for France, where some of her husband’s family were already living. (French visa rules allow those who have successfully claimed asylum to bring over family members).
When she arrived in Marseille, on France’s southern coast, she claimed asylum as a refugee.
“I went with my brother-in-law. We lived together. We didn’t find a job of course, but we had rights. We had salaries, residency, passports, everything official,” she says.
This might have been the closing of a chapter for Yaqoub and her two boys. But she could never quite settle. It was the first time she had ever left Iraq, and she was torn between the safety and security of her new home and a yearning for her first.
Marseille is often described as Europe’s most ethnically diverse city. It has seen successive waves of immigration from Italy, Eastern Europe and North Africa. More than one-quarter of its 800,000 residents are Muslim. Marseille also bears the unfortunate title of France’s “capital of crime,” due to its high murder rate and gang problems. 
Yaqoub’s Iraqi Christian community is so small and unique, however, that it barely makes a footprint in Marseille. If she felt like a minority in Iraq, in Marseille she felt almost invisible.
“There were Arabs from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, but we did not have any contact with them. We were too different,” she says.
And the French people she met were — she searches for the right word — “a little cold.”
There were small things that she just couldn’t get used to, like ready-to-eat food: “If we don’t prepare the food with our own hands, we cannot [eat] it.”
Then there were the bigger things. Iraqi communities are generally tightly knit. Generations of families tend to stay in one place, so everyone knows everyone else. This is especially true in the Christian communities of northern Iraq, which have been brought closer together by their perceived precariousness in a country that has long suffered from Islamist extremism.
“We socialize here [in Iraq]. One can count on the other, we have each other. If you don’t have family, you have your neighbors. If you don’t have a brother, you have a friend. Over there [in Marseille], you feel estranged. You don’t interact with the others, that’s the nature of things there,” Yaqoub says.
She was studying psychology in Qaraqosh. In Marseille, she couldn’t find work. She tried to learn French, but found it very difficult.
“The language is what determines your relationship with someone, isn’t that true? If we can’t speak, how can we interact with others?” she asks.
Her desire to go back home grew every day.
“I missed my country first, and secondly my house,” she says.
But more than that, she didn’t see Marseille as a place for her children to grow up.
“My children and I can live better here [in Iraq]. It’s difficult there. I needed help all the time there. You cannot count on anyone,” she says.
Yaqoub borrowed the money to cover the flights, and against the advice of her friends and family, returned to Erbil — back to the shopping mall.
Her experience is not as rare as one might imagine. The IOM, which assists migrants who wish to return to their own country, conducted research in late 2015 on the reasons why Iraqis were going back home.
They interviewed dozens of returnees, and found that the image they had of life in Europe had been idealized. The main reasons refugees came back, they found, had to do with the time it takes to process an asylum request — during which an applicant can’t work — and cultural differences. Some were forced to return because they were the main breadwinner for a family and could not find work abroad.
Yaqoub’s prospects here are not much better in Erbil than they were in Marseille. Her only means of support comes from the local charities that deliver food to the families living in the mall once a month.
“Honestly, this is hard, you cannot easily find a job. It’s the same for everyone. Whenever I hear about a position, I apply. But nothing has happened yet.”
But despite all the advice she received to stay in Marseille, Yaqoub thinks she made the right choice to come back.
“I’m back to square one,” she says, “but my cousins are across the hall, and my old neighbors too. I’m happier here.”

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U.N. silent during ISIS genocide of Christians

By OneNewsNow
Michael F. Haverluck

Not living up to its self-proclaimed roll as being global peacekeepers, the United Nations is remaining silent while the notorious Islamic terrorist group ISIS continues it “sickening” genocide of Christians in the Middle East.
Even though the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) received an urgent testimony detailing ISIS’ genocidal acts against Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq in a document that was filed by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) – in partnership with its European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ELLJ) – the globalists have continued to look the other way.
Blind eye to genocide
ACLJ’s document urged the U.N. to act immediately by – first of all – officially recognizing Christians and other persecuted minority groups as being victims of brutal genocide at the hands of the notorious jihadist group.
“In the nine long months since we submitted our testimony, ISIS has continued its systematic reign of terror against these groups, while the United Nations has remained silent,” ACLJ’s Palmer Williams stressed. “The victims who managed to survive and escape captivity languish in refugee camps.”
While U.N. officials remain busy by issuing anti-Semitic policies against Israel in favor of the terrorist-run Palestinian Authority (PA), they continue to turn a blind eye to the atrocities ISIS inflicts on innocent Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere.
“In October, when Allied forces began their campaign to liberate the Nineveh region of Iraq from the grips of ISIS, some Christian leaders were able to return to their ancient homeland for the first time in over two years,” the ACLJ reported. “Having fled for their lives when ISIS took over the region in 2014, the leaders returned to piles of rubble.”
Just as the Palestinians seek to wipe the Jewish people off the face of the planet and destroy the state of Israel, ISIS seeks to eradicate Christians from the areas it has taken over in the Middle East.
“The 300,000 Christians who resided in the region when ISIS brutally took over the region has now dwindled to 20 to 30 Christian residents,” the Washington, D.C.-based organization informed. “Their places of worship, ancient texts, and congregations have summarily been wiped out by ISIS.”
Facts are stacking up against ISIS as it continues to lose its strongholds, which is revealing its genocidal activities across the Middle East – massacres and brutal killings that the U.N. has been well aware of for some time, but done nothing about. 
“As more ISIS-held regions are liberated in the coming months, more evidence will undoubtedly reveal the indisputable genocidal acts by ISIS against religious minorities,” Williams pointed out. “The growing body of evidence demonstrates that the inhuman violence at issue is, in fact, genocide. This evidence is well-documented, and it is sickening.”
Calling the U.N. out
Addressing ISIS’s senseless slaughtering of Christians in its new submission to the UNHRC, attorneys with ACLJ are calling upon the globalist group once again to simply recognize Christians and other minority groups as being victims of genocide as defined by The Genocide Convention – in an acknowledgement that would be the initial step toward putting an end to Islamic onslaught on innocent lives.
“Yet, the U.N. has not taken this critical step of acknowledging the genocide taking place in Iraq and Syria,” ACLJ attorneys wrote in their latest document submitted to the U.N. “While the ECLJ calls for swift and decisive action by the international community to stop the genocide and protect the victims, it also recognizes that the first step is for the U.N. to recognize that the atrocities constitute genocide. A declaration by the Human Rights Council that the Islamic State is engaged in genocide and action by this Council calling for the U.N. General Assembly (and other appropriate organs of the U.N.) to follow suit would carry significant weight.”
The ACLJ – which has already collected more than 270,000 signatures on its ”Stop the Genocide, Protect Christians” online petition – is demanding that the U.N. fulfill its obligation to the world as a peacekeeper and do what it can to protect peaceful religious minorities from the notorious Islamic militants mercilessly operating in Iran and Iraq.
“The U.N. must defend the rights of all religious minorities, including the Christians in Iraq, Syria, and any other place where the Islamic State engages in genocide,” the nonprofit Christian legal group asserted. “We respectfully request that this Council declare that the Islamic State and its followers are committing acts of genocide against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities and to then act accordingly. The very mission of this organization requires nothing less.”
The ACLJ, which is led by chief counsel Jay Sekulow, has no intention of backing down from its demand that the U.N. fulfill its duty by standing up for peaceful people of faith being massacred in a strong stand against the Islamic State.
“We will continue to hold global leaders accountable to the international legal commitments they’ve made to ensure historic atrocities and genocide never occur again,” ACLJ proclaimed. “As Christians and other religious minorities are targeted for extinction by ISIS, the international community must move quickly to recognize the genocide for what it is so that they can then act swiftly and definitively to end the historic human rights crises in areas of the world dominated by jihadists.”

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