lunedì, luglio 25, 2016

 

Paludi della Mesopotamia patrimonio Unesco. Mar Sako: archeologia vale più del petrolio

By Asia News
Joseph Mahmoud
 
Il patriarca caldeo Mar Louis Raphael Sako esprime “le più sincere congratulazioni” e i “migliori auguri” al popolo irakeno per l’inserimento di alcuni siti archeologici e naturali dell’Iraq nella lista dei siti Patrimonio dell’Umanità Unesco. Nella nota, inviata per conoscenza ad AsiaNews, sua beatitudine cita “la palude di Ur dei Caldei, Eridu e Uruk” fra i nuovi siti Unesco. “Questo - aggiunge - è un grande risultato, perché [per l’Iraq] l’archeologia rappresenta una ricchezza” e il turismo supera “in ricchezza” il petrolio e potrebbe essere la vera, grande risorsa per rilanciare il Paese, se pacificato.
Il 17 luglio scorso a Istanbul (Turchia), in concomitanza con la 40ma sessione del World Heritage Committee, l’Organizzazione Onu per l’educazione, la scienza e la cultura ha scelto 21 nuovi siti da inserire fra i patrimoni dell’umanità.
Tra i nuovi ingressi, la maggior parte di questi si trova in Asia e Medio oriente; in particolare, la Cina continua a scalare la classifica e ora è seconda al mondo per numero di siti, a una sola lunghezza dall’Italia tuttora in testa con 51.
I nuovi siti Unesco in Iraq sorgono nell’area in cui, secondo la Bibbia, si trovava il Giardino dell’Eden. Dopo quattro anni di incontri, campagne, promozioni e lettere aperte, i vertici dell’organismo Onu hanno deciso di inserire le paludi di quella che un tempo era la Mesopotamia fra i patrimoni mondiali. L’inclusione riguarda sette elementi: i tre siti archeologici delle città di Uruk, Ur e Tell Eridu (le rovine delle città sumere e degli insediamenti che si svilupparono nel sud della Mesopotamia tra il IV e il III secolo a.C.) e quattro aree naturali. Si tratta di un complesso unico dal punto di vista culturale e anche ambientale, luogo di incontro tra i fiumi Tigri ed Eufrate in cui si è creato nei millenni un ecosistema fondamentale per il Paese.
Notevole la biodiversità del luogo, che negli anni ’50 arrivava fin quasi a 9mila chilometri quadrati di estensione. Saddam Hussein ha quasi distrutto l’area, perseguitando gli abitanti della zona - i Marsh Arabs, Arabi delle paludi - e prosciugandone una vasta porzione. Ora l’area della palude ha recuperato il 40% della sua estensione originaria e il governo punta ad arrivare fino a 6mila km2 di estensione.
Accogliendo con gioia la decisione degli esperti dell’Unesco, il patriarca caldeo si rivolge ai politici irakeni, al governo e a tutte le istituzioni “perché preservino” il patrimonio turistico, storico, naturale e archeologico del Paese. È necessario, avverte mar Sako, tutelare “le reliquie e i siri sparsi in tutto il Paese, per mantenerne integro il valore e la storia”. E per raggiungere questo obiettivo, conclude, sono fondamentali “la pace e la stabilità”.

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venerdì, luglio 22, 2016

 

Falling for ISIS Propaganda about Christians

 
That Middle Eastern Christians—along with Yazidis and others—face genocide by ISIS was officially recognized earlier this year in a designation of the U.S. Secretary of State, and in resolutions of both Houses of Congress. Yet, a prominent international voice is now denying this, asserting that ISIS, rather than aiming to eradicate Christians, offers to protect and respect them through a traditional Islamic tax option, or jizya. These findings seem preposterous to anyone familiar with ISIS’s worldview—recall the 2015 ISIS videos of its beheadings of the Coptic Orthodox and the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in Libya. Nevertheless, they are gaining traction to the detriment of the affected Christian communities and to the world’s understanding of ISIS’s ideology. In a June 15 report concerning ISIS’s genocide in Iraq’s Nineveh Province, a small but highly influential international group, the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, insists that ISIS does not intend to destroy the Christian community, which would mean that, under the genocide convention, the terror group has not waged genocide on that minority. The report confidently declares that ISIS unconditionally recognizes Christians’ “right to exist as Christians,” including those within its territory, “as long as they pay the jizya tax,” because, it suggests, the terror group respects Christians (and presumably Jews) as “People of the Book.” Another unsubstantiated and insupportable claim is that there are “Christian communities still living in ISIS-controlled territory.” The report even denies that the ISIS attacks against the Christian minority are religious, asserting instead a political motivation for its violence against that minority—to punish them for getting too close to “non-aligned forces.”Apart from its footnote-free, summary conclusion, the Commission report, entitled “They came to destroy”: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis, is silent on the Christians. Here is the conclusion in its entirety:

While the Christian communities still living in ISIS-controlled territory live difficult and often precarious existences, are viewed with suspicion, and are vulnerable to attack if ISIS perceive they are seeking protection from non-aligned forces, their right to exist as Christians within any Islamic state existing at any point in time is recognised as long as they pay the jizya tax: Under ISIS’s radical interpretation of Islam, however, it is impermissible for Yazidis to live as Yazidis inside its so-called caliphate because they are not People of the Book.
 
As it pertains to the Christians, this conclusion is demonstrably false. No one denies that the Yazidis face ISIS genocide but the idea that “Christians and Jews” do not because they have ISIS’s respect as “People of the Book” first surfaced in a report by the U.S. Holocaust Museum genocide prevention office during the debate leading up to the official U.S. genocide designation last winter and was refuted by the evidence then. Its adoption by the Commission now gives what is essentially unexamined ISIS propaganda new currency in international circles, with significant implications.
Internationally, the Commission is considered a highly respected authority. It was established in 2011 by the United Nations Council on Human Rights to advise the world’s preeminent human-rights body. It counts among its four commissioners such notables as Karen Koning AbuZayd, an American who served for as Deputy Commissioner General of UNRWA, a controversial UN body for Palestinian refugees with a reputation, including under her leadership, of abetting Holocaust denial and Hamas terror, but which allowed her to obtain the rank of UN Under Secretary General of the UN.

Already the research library of the British Parliament has cited the Commission as its principal source on the plight of Christians in ISIS’s territory, and adopted the Commission’s conclusion in the library’s July 15, 2016 briefing paper on “Religious Persecution in the Middle East.” If allowed to stand unchallenged, the Commission’s conclusion can be anticipated to influence policymaking within and outside the United Nations.
A review of the evidence and interviews with the Christian leaders directly involved reveals that ISIS’ claims of a jizya option are a deception and a propaganda ploy. ISIS’s demands for payments, which it calls “jizya,” are actually examples of extortion. Under traditional Islam, there was a conceptual distinction between the two that made an enormous difference for the survival non-Muslim minorities.Under what is called the Pact of Omar (named after a 7th-century Caliph), there was an arrangement for coexistence with Jews and Christians as respected “People of the Book.” Men or their community paid a progressive tax, or jizya, in exchange for the protection of their families’ lives and property and for their religious rights. They did not have religious freedom, were harshly discriminated against, and were compelled to adhere to Muslim mores in ways would be seen today as flagrant human-rights violations. Yet for 1,300 years, from the Muslim conquest of the region in the 7th century until the mid- 19th, Christianity was practiced and perpetuated in this region under such arrangements.ISIS has never offered a traditional jizya option to any of these Christians, at any time. Neither protection nor religious rights are assured under the pseudo-caliphate of the Islamic State. Today there is a complete absence anywhere in ISIS-controlled territory of functioning churches, active clergy, and intact Christian communities. As shown below, in the three major areas—Nineveh, Raqqa and Qaryatayn—where ISIS claims to have “offered a jizya option,” the offer has always, within a short time, been followed by the rape, murder, kidnapping, enslavement, and dispossession of Christians—all acts evidencing the crime of genocide.

Nineveh Province, Iraq

On July 17, 2014, twelve days before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed his caliphate from Mosul, the capital of Nineveh Province, ISIS first raised the jizya issue in Iraq. The group summoned Mosul’s Christian leaders to the city’s civic center purportedly to set out its demands. The Reverend Emanuel Adelkello, a priest with the Syriac Catholic Church (the largest in Northern Iraq) had direct dealings with ISIS on behalf of the Christian community. He wrote to me that the Christian leaders throughout Nineveh consulted among themselves and decided it was a “trap.” Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshi wrote that it required too great a leap of faith: They could “never trust Daesh [members] no matter how many good intentions they try to show.”Reverend Adelkello states they were specifically fearful that ISIS intended to “keep women there so that they could be taken freely by the ISIS fighters [since they] had made public statements that according to the Koran it was their right to take the Christian women as they pleased.” He writes that the Christians also “believed they would likely be killed if they showed up.” None did.ISIS then broadcasted from mosque loudspeakers an ultimatum to the Christians: Leave by July 19 or face death or forced conversion to Islam. The Archbishop says that ISIS also spread the “lie” that he had signed a jizya agreement with ISIS. He believes this was done to deceive Christians into staying in order to hold them for ransom and sexual abuse.Virtually all the Christians who could do so fled. In Mosul, ISIS destroyed or shut all 45 churches, confiscated Christian homes—which they had already marked with the red letter “N” for Nazarene—and manned checkpoints to steal possessions and cars from the fleeing Christians. A Sunni imam of Mosul who protested their treatment was killed.Following an ISIS blitzkrieg, the terror-driven mass exodus of Christians was repeated less than three weeks later throughout the rest of Nineveh Province. ISIS made no further jizya announcements in Iraq. The Holocaust Museum report recounts an interview with one Nineveh Christian man, who said he tried to pay jizya so that he could stay with his businesses but ISIS refused, confiscating his businesses after he fled.
The Commission of Inquiry characterized those Christians who didn’t make it out of Nineveh as having chosen to live under ISIS and pay jizya. The Christians on the scene refute this and describe a dire situation.
Only 25 to 50 Christians, nearly all reported to be elderly or suffering from infirmities that prevented them from making the trek out, remained behind in Mosul. They are now barred from leaving. Church leaders are adamant that these Christians don’t pay jizya; ISIS has robbed them of all their wealth and otherwise fails to protect or respect them.
The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, who was among those deported from Mosul, is categorical in asserting that no Christian community, or even family, remains in Mosul to pay jizya, and disputes Kurdish media reports that families remain in the city and are paying an annual jizya of $170.
On May 11, 2016, the Patriarchate
said:

There are no more Christian families in Mosul…only a few individuals who were unable to escape…. Fifty disabled Christians are left at a medical facility because they were unable to escape…[and] it has been impossible so far to rescue them. Some Christians abducted by Daesh [ISIS] are still being held, but no family.
 
Assyrian Iraqi parliamentarian Yonadam Kanna agrees and adds that elderly Christians who stayed were forcibly converted. The Iraqi Chaldean priest Reverend Douglas Bazi, who aids refugees in Erbil, says that one Mosul family with disabled members was told they could remain Christian if each family member paid $8,000, each month, which was so exorbitant they could not exercise the “option.” Other exiled Church leaders report that the Mosul Christians are now destitute, starving and dying from neglect, isolated in their houses. Needless to say, they can’t go to church, since none remains.
When in the first two weeks of August 2014 ISIS stormed the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain, there were several thousand Christians who didn’t evacuate in time and they were shown no mercy.
An unknown number of the very young and very old died during this escape and, in the panic, were left where they fell. Others, ISIS killed outright. Washington’s Cardinal Theodore McCarrick told me that he spoke with an Iraqi Christian woman, now displaced in Kurdistan, who witnessed jihadists crucifying her husband on their home’s front door. A Sunni tribesman told of the fate of one senior left behind, an 80-year-old Nineveh Christian woman whom ISIS burned alive last year for not following its sharia.Aggregate numbers have yet to be collected for any ISIS depredations. Nineveh’s Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Amel Nona estimates that a “huge number of Christians” who could not get out when ISIS invaded his diocese were killed. Syriac Catholic Patriarch Younan reported that ISIS killed over 500 Christians, all civilians, but the number could be much higher.Using a State Department questionnaire from the Darfur genocide, the Knights of Columbus interviewed several hundred (out of 120,000) Christian refugees in Kurdistan. As its March 9, 2016 Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East Report documents, survivors reported that their sons, cousins, fathers, or brothers went missing after being led away by Isis jihadists. Based on relatives’ testimony, KofC lawyer Scott Lloyd says: “Dozens and perhaps hundreds of Christians, mostly men, were demanded as hostages in exchange for their families’ [freedom] to leave. They haven’t been seen since.”While ISIS’s practice of sexual slavery mostly targeted the Yazidis, Archbishop Moshi states that over 20 Christian girls and women were captured and remain held, despite Church ransom offers of $30,000—far above the slave prices on the ISIS-published list. One was three-year-old Christina, whom, her mother learned from a cell phone call from another captured Christian woman, was sold at a Mosul slave market. In another case, three months after being kidnapped, a daughter called her mother to say that she had been “converted” to Islam and “married” to a Muslim man.A Christian mother who managed to escape told of horrific abuse at a sex-slave detention center, under the direction of a sheikh who performed “marriages,” in accordance with ISIS’s strict rules. She told Minority Rights Group International:

That night I was married to eight different men and divorced eight times. Each man raped me three or four times. When all this was over, we were taken back to the room where all the girls were being held. They made us walk naked through the big room where all the men were sitting. We were barely able to walk. This scenario was repeated every week—it was like a nightmare.
 
Author Mindy Belz interviewed several Nineveh Christians escapees. She relates: “One father described being tortured while his wife and two children were threatened after the family refused to deny their faith.” ISIS militants raped the mother and 12-year-old daughter of another family, causing the father, who was forced to watch, to commit suicide. Father Bazi says that many Christian women and girls were raped but are too shamed to reveal it.
Forced conversion to Islam was so prevalent that special ministries were established in Kurdistan to counsel escapees burdened by the guilt. In September 2014, a family of 12 Assyrian Christians who spent a month under ISIS in Bartella reported being robbed, forcibly converted before a sharia court, and put under house arrest for 17 days without food. They told of seeing a badly beaten Assyrian man who refused to convert being bound and driven off in a truck—to be killed, they assumed. In another report, 14 men in a group of 48 Christians who had been held hostage for two weeks converted to Islam after ISIS militants tried to rape the girls, including a 9 year old.By August 2014, Patriarch Younan had begun pronouncing the Christian situation a “genocide.” Virtually the entire Christian population, and every trace of its unique 2,000-year-old civilization, has been eradicated from the ISIS-controlled Nineveh Province, the historic homeland of Iraqi Christianity. The vast majority of Nineveh’s Christians—like the vast majority of Yazidis—has been completely dispossessed and driven from their homes into Kurdistan or across the borders.

Raqqa and Qaryatayn, Syria

Raqqa is upheld as the prime example of an ISIS-controlled area implementing a jizya arrangement with Christians, due to a dhimmi contract posted on the Internet in February 2014 that set out the purported jizya terms. But, as evidenced by the blurred-out signatures of some 20 Raqqa Christians at the bottom, only a few dozen Christians had survived the prior seven months of ISIS occupation and al-Nusra’s before that. As in Mosul, when ISIS raised the jizya issue, the Christian community was already virtually extinct. Their numbers have dwindled since, and now the dozen or so left are all elderly, held as captives, and used as human shields.
The dhimmi document presumed the existence of churches with its detailed list of forbidden things to do involving them: bans against ringing bells, displaying crosses, and making repairs. Yet ISIS had destroyed all the churches and none was open. The last cleric left when ISIS arrived. It is in Raqqa where the Italian Jesuit Reverend Paolo Dall’Oglio was presumably murdered by jihadis the year before.
The State Department’s former counterterrorism expert Ambassador Alberto Fernandez describes the Raqqa jizya document as essentially a pathetic “Salafi Caliphate publicity stunt”:

[T]here are no images whatsoever of what could be described as normal Christian life in ISIS-controlled territory—no functioning churches, no monasteries or working priests, and no Christian families or Christian schools—all of which had existed throughout Islamic history.
 
Reports in spring 2016 state that the few remaining Christians were under house arrest. Voice of America mentions the dhimmi contract but then states:
 
IS has also confiscated their land and used them as human shields to deter international coalition and Syrian warplanes from hitting its positions in Raqqa and elsewhere.
Fernandez explains that ISIS’s leader raised the jizya issue in Raqqa to appear more “Caliph-like.”
 
The pact seems more aspirational, and more about preparing the stage for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s assuming the mantle of the Caliph, which happened only four months later, than a real document regulating the life of an actual community. Just as the Caliph Omar in the 7th century produced an agreement to regulate the life of a protected minority, so would the Caliph-in-Waiting do the same. The only thing missing were actual Christians.
The respected outlet “Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered” that monitors ISIS in its “capital” also repeats the jizya terms but makes clear that these payments did not spare the city’s Christian minority from ISIS’s brutal bigotry. “Christians are the most vulnerable group in the country,” observes the group’s Hussam Issa.
John was a college-age Christian whose family agreed to the “jizya” arrangement. He related that he survived for 18 months by carrying an official ISIS protection document obtained by extortion payments, which, using ISIS’s terminology, he called “jizya.” John described living in “constant fear,” forced to conform to ISIS haircut and dress codes and behavior rules. While he was able to meet socially with other Christians, he was unable to go to church or receive the sacraments. He relates how he once watched a street demonstration with crowds shouting “Allahu Akbar”: “But when an IS [Islamic State] man saw me being silent, he stopped the car. I had to say ‘Allahu Akbar’ too.” He made his secret escape one night in early 2016—the last young Christian to leave.
Raqqa’s female Christians faced an even tougher fate. ISIS defectors report that the rape of Christian “infidels” was common and approved by the ISIS sharia court. Some were girls as young as 12 years old.
The touted Raqqa “jizya” arrangement proved to be a deception. Last October, ISIS made a similar propaganda show in Qaryatayn. ISIS’s publicity campaign surrounding the dhimmi contract signing there was extensive, as detailed by MEMRI. In an ISIS video of the signing, the narrator proclaims:

The Caliph of the Muslims displayed kindness and generosity, and agreed to accept their jizya tax, and to allow them to live under the rule of the Caliphate as part of the dhimma contract.”
 
There, too, ISIS claims were false.
That fall, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Jean Kawak attested that the Qaryatayn Christians were being “treated like slaves.” He said they were held there against their will. The facts revealed in April 2016, after the town’s liberation, support those assessments.
As reported by Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, the 300 Christians remaining in the city after ISIS captured it were immediately subjected to abuse and violence by the jihadists. He said 21 were killed trying to escape, or refusing to convert to Islam or submit to the “caliphate’s” rules.
In October 2015, with Muslims’ help, Qaryatayn’s Christians set up an underground railroad and began escaping in small groups to Homs. They sent out the young girls first after being warned that jihadi leaders desired them as “wives.” Their priest Jacques Mourad was imprisoned and tortured and the town’s 5th-century Mar Elian monastery and churches were demolished. The bishops continue to try to ransom a group of the town’s Christians, whom ISIS imprisoned elsewhere last fall.

Accountability

The Commission takes ISIS propaganda at face value and asserts, without evidence, that “Christian communities” are living under ISIS today and paying jizya. It mistakenly credits the terror group with making an exception from its standard ultra-violence for the Christian minority, out of respect for “People of the Book,” and seeking to coexist with them through traditional jizya arrangements. It accepts as fact that ISIS does not intend to destroy the Christian community. It offers unfounded reassurances that ISIS attacks against “vulnerable” Christians are not religiously motivated. And its unsupported summary conclusion, laden with such false premises, precludes any finding that ISIS is waging genocide against Middle Eastern Christians. It only refrained from repeating the ISIS video’s praise of al Baghdadi’s “kindness and generosity.
In truth, there is a complete absence of intact Christian communities in ISIS territory, which is prima facie evidence that there was no jizya option for the Christians. Testimony and reports from the Christian survivors and their clergy confirm this.
What ISIS refers to as “jizya” is extortion and ransom from a few disabled or elderly individuals, and others who did not escape in time. Those who did not escape have been killed or forced to become jihadi “brides,” human shields, slaves, hostages, or Muslims against their will. They are barred from practicing their Christian faith.
ISIS not only intends to destroy the Christian communities under its control, it has done so, and should be held accountable for the genocide against the Christians, as well as for that against the Yazidis. The Commission of Inquiry needs to answer why, in its conclusion on the Christians, it obscured the dangerous ideology of the Islamic State and served as an echo chamber for its propaganda.

Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. Her forthcoming report, The ISIS Genocide of Middle Eastern Christian Minorities and Its Jizya Propaganda Ploy, will be available next week at www.hudson.org

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Syriac Catholic Patriarch Warns: Western Politicians and Media Mislead World on Middle East

Victor Gaetan
 
Rome: Imagine a five-star general, under assault, with no weapons of defense — except faith.
Think of an Old Testament prophet living today, describing the evil destroying his community — but few listen.
That general or prophet is the fierce and noble leader of the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch, Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan, age 71, whose Church comprises some 200,000 souls worldwide.
Patriarch Youssef sat down with the Register in Rome to provide an update and overview of the situation facing Syriac Catholics in their main homelands of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. (The Catholic bishop of Antioch traditionally carries the title “patriarch” — one of five patriarchs of Antioch, three Catholic and two Orthodox.)
His cri de coeur is unnerving.
Conditions for Syriac Catholics still living in Iraq and Syria has gone “from bad to worse” in the last year, according to the patriach.
Good news for the Church this year came when a kidnapped priest escaped the Islamic State (IS) after five months of captivity: The related bad news was IS’ destruction of the 1,500-plus-year-old monastery where he was abbot.
A July 3 truck bombing in Baghdad killed more than 230 people, including Catholic faithful — the most deadly attack in the city in several years.
It occurred 400 meters (1,312 feet) from the Syriac-Catholic cathedral, still mourning an atrocious massacre six years ago: Masked invaders assaulted the cathedral during Sunday Mass and viciously murdered a priest on the altar, along with another priest and 46 others, during a three-hour siege.
Despite obvious awareness of the hatred toward Christians surging through the Muslim community then, the United States appeared to be taken by surprise at the sudden emergence of IS two years ago.
 
Daesh Invasion
In the summer of 2014, some 150,000 believers were forced to flee from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, where the largest concentration of Iraqi Christians lived. About 50,000 Syriac Catholics lived in the city of Mosul alone.
“They are all gone, uprooted from their ancestral lands, by the Daesh invasion,” said the patriarch solemnly, shaking his head. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, with a derogatory connotation of “lacking dignity.”
Displaced Christians found refuge in Kurdistan (a region in northern Iraq), in Jordan and in Lebanon. Most had only a few hours of warning, escaping with few possessions.
The patriarch regularly visits his flock in refugee camps and provisional apartments in places such as Beirut and Amman, where Catholic humanitarian programs such as Caritas have been helpful: “They have been waiting to go back [to their homes], but it seems that it’s not going to be soon,” he said. “Their morale is way down.”
Most have given up hope for normalcy and are trying to get visas to the U.S., Europe or Australia.
 
Devastated Syria
Meanwhile, Christian communities in Syria have also been devastated, despite warnings from local leaders, including the patriarch, that the country’s rich diversity of ethnic and religious groups — and the complex balance of power relations between them — could easily be disturbed if outsiders meddled.
According to the patriarch, fundamental errors in Syria came from Western politicians insisting that democracy can be exported, when it can’t; from Western media describing an “Arab Spring” style opposition movement and the existence of moderate rebels, who aren’t viable (if they exist); and from an intentional misunderstanding of political Islam and its objectives.
“In Syria, the situation was much more complex than in Tunisia or Egypt or Libya,” he said, adding that the media turned a war “inflicted on Syria” into an “Arab Spring” fantasy, starting in March 2011.
“Even Catholic leaders [in the United States and Western Europe], lured by the media and your hypocritical politicians, would tell us [Christian leaders in Syria]: ‘The Syrian regime has to go,’ assuming it was a matter of months,” which was inappropriate because “you have no right to interfere in an independent country that is still recognized by the U.N.,” said the patriarch.
“Western politicians said, ‘We have to export democracy,’ but what kind of democracy do you export to a country that has never known the separation of religion and state? If you don’t have that separation, you will have no democracy, and you will end up denying the rights of non-Muslims. What kind of democracy is that?” asked the patriarch.
“American, French, English, European Union politicians — they knew that, and now they harvest what they have sowed,” he said.
 
Sectarian War
It’s more accurate to look at Syria from the perspective of the struggle throughout the Middle East between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims, suggested the patriarch.
“One of the most moderate, laicized countries in the region, Syria, has been ravished by one of the most sectarian wars,” he summarized.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite, a branch of Shia Muslim concentrated in Syria, where Sunnis are the majority.
By advocating the removal of Assad, the Obama administration aligned itself with “rich countries like Saudi Arabia or Qatar, fomenting violence and hatred,” said the patriarch.
Behind much of the region’s conflict are “the Wahabbism of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other [Persian] Gulf states,” whose “best allies” are Western countries, he said.
Wahabbism is radical Sunni Islam, a movement that emerged in the 18th century thought and preaching of Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula. It forms the religious basis for the Islamic State.
He says Saudi Arabia and its Western allies, especially the U.S., together decided “the Syrian country, ruled by a kind of socialist party, where they were fighting against illiteracy, where you had medical care for all, a peaceful country, where you could go wherever you wanted to go, 24 hours a day without any problem — they find it has a dictatorship they have to knock down,” intoned the patriarch. 
 
Political Islam
The patriarch thinks “political correctness” often prevents people in the West from perceiving dangerous phenomena related to Islam.
As the interview took place, the bodies of nine Italians killed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, by Muslim terrorists were arriving in Rome, the patriarch pointed out. Why did this happen?
“Go to the depth of the problem: It is not a question of poverty,” the patriarch observed. “Those five criminals were of good families. They were also students. It’s not a question of politics: The foreigners were apolitical; they helped the textile industry in Bangladesh.”
“It is a matter of Islam, radical Islam, and most of the Sunni Muslims are radical. Why? Because they take their Quran literally. In the Quran you have verses that promote tolerance toward non-Muslims, the people of the book, like us [Christians], like Jews, and you have verses that are very intolerant, very violent,” he explained.
“A Muslim has to learn the Quran literally. Each letter of the Quran is the word of God, and if you have people memorizing verses like ‘Go and kill the infidels’ — and those who do not say, ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is great], or ‘There is one God, Allah, and there is one prophet, Muhammad,’ are the infidels, this is the problem,” he said.
He thinks Western governments that have relationships with Muslim-majority governments need to insist those governments confront the promotion of violence and “reform your book of religion.”
 
Evidence of Indifference
The patriarch sees evidence that wealthy Muslim countries don’t care about the Syrian people in their lack of involvement in the refugee crisis.
People like German Chancellor Angela Merkel “don’t have the courage to tell countries like Saudi Arabia — which has plenty of land and plenty of money, and is much closer to the majority of refugees, in terms of language, culture and religion — to find a temporary place for the refugees, since they are telling us Assad will soon be gone. Okay, then, give them a place to live until they can go back to their country,” observed the patriarch.
No. It is a lie, a lie. They are not concerned with the fate of the Syrian people,” only with a political takeover of the government.
The patriarch hopes Catholic leaders from the Middle East can have an encounter with the Holy Father “to tell him about the tragedy, so he can alert the world.” In fact, Pope Francis launched an effort to promote political, rather than military, solutions in Syria.
The patriarch is especially fed up with “lying, hypocrisy and manipulation of public opinion” in the West, with regard to Syria, Iraq and even Lebanon, where tension is increasing.
Western politicians “still instigate the prolongation of an absurd war in Syria out of geopolitical opportunism,” knowing there is no moderate opposition “to topple a legitimate government,” he said. 
Although he was quick to thank the Catholic Church in the United States, especially institutions that have volunteered “to help our people stay [in the Middle East] and keep going as Eastern Churches of the apostolic time,” he said Catholics have to be more assertive “to tell the truth, beginning with the elected people and the media.”
The dedicated Church leader recounted, “I keep telling the U.S. bishops, ‘I thank you for your humanitarian aid, but it is not really what we need.’”
He continued, “We need them to stand up for the values of the Founding Fathers, defending human rights, religious freedom and the truth, while talking to those countries where Muslims make the majority.”
“We need Catholics to stand up — no more silent majority; since you live in a democratic country, you have to tell the truth” on our behalf, the beleaguered patriarch requested.

Senior Register correspondent Victor Gaetan is an award-winning
international correspondent and a contributor to Foreign Affairs magazine.

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Appello del vescovo di Aleppo: basta con il traffico di armi

 
“Basta politica di interessi economici e strategici che incentivano il traffico di armi”.
Così il vescovo di Aleppo, mons. Antoine Audo, lancia un appello alla comunità internazionale sulla crisi umanitaria in Siria. Solo negli ultimi tre mesi, più di 900 i civili uccisi, dei quali 200 bambini. Centrale, per il vescovo, trovare soluzioni politiche per sedare l’annoso conflitto tra le forze del regime governativo e i ribelli attraverso il dialogo, il rispetto dell’uomo e della fede. Gioia Tagliente lo ha intervistato:


Questi bombardamenti attorno a quella che viene chiamata “la strada di castello”, nel nord di Aleppo, avvengono perché il governo cerca di bloccare la strada che porta in Turchia. Ci sono bambini uccisi. D’altra parte, però, non si deve parlare solo di questi bombardamenti, perché ce ne sono altri ad opera di gruppi armati sulla città, in centro. Ma i media non ne parlano e parlano soltanto di bambini uccisi dai bombardamenti del governo. Non parlano dell’altra realtà in cui ci sono case distrutte, non solo nei quartieri cristiani ma dappertutto. Noi, come Caritas, siamo sempre presenti per aiutare la gente, le persone ferite, con il programma medico e per ricostruire le case. I programmi continuano. Questa è la nostra situazione drammatica, di pericolo, sui due fronti.
I bambini sono forse le principali vittime di questo conflitto. Come lei sa, è recente il video di un bambino decapitato dai cosiddetti ribelli moderati. Dove stiamo andando?
E’ una cosa terribile. Come si può immaginare di uccidere un bambino di 13 anni... Questa è una lotta tra differenti gruppi sul terreno. Come ha detto anche il Santo Padre, con questa campagna della Caritas per la pace, non c’è una soluzione militare: la soluzione è politica, a livello internazionale. Le Nazioni Unite devono aiutare la Siria, facendo sedere tutti i gruppi attorno ad un tavolo per discutere ad una soluzione politica.
Quanto è importante l’aiuto della Chiesa per il popolo siriano?
E’ molto importante. E’ una questione di solidarietà, di compassione. Senza tutti questi aiuti delle organizzazioni cristiane e, in maniera particolare, della Chiesa cattolica – dei tanti gruppi, tra cui sicuramente la Caritas, come organismo nazionale che applica diversi programmi in Siria – senza questi aiuti sarebbero veramente tutti malati, morti ed emigrati. Questo è il nostro dramma. Sì, la guerra continua ed è una emorragia per tutti i siriani, ma in maniera particolare per i cristiani che partono in migliaia, non potendo più sopportare questa situazione di violenza, di povertà e di assenza di futuro. E’ una cosa terribile.
Vuole fare un appello alla comunità internazionale?
Non devono continuare a vendere armi, non devono continuare a dire di voler sostenere una opposizione moderata: non sono cose vere. Non devono sostenere questi gruppi armati estremisti, dando loro legittimità. C’è un governo, c’è un’autorità, c’è la Siria, c’è una storia, c’è una geografia. Non devono usare tutti questi gruppi per distruggere la Siria e fare una politica di interessi economici e strategici a livello internazionale. Si deve imparare la lezione da quello che è accaduto in Turchia: è lo stesso caso. Hanno presentato la Turchia come un modello di democrazia, di libertà e si vede oggi qual è il risultato. Si deve prendere tutto il mondo arabo e musulmano e cercare una soluzione attraverso il dialogo, il rispetto dell’uomo e della fede.

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mercoledì, luglio 20, 2016

 

Cardinale Sandri: “se non ci fossero più i cristiani nel Medioriente, non ci sarebbe più nemmeno il Medioriente”

By SIR
 
“Quello che sta accadendo in Siria e in Iraq, insieme ai grandi fenomeni migratori che stanno coinvolgendo l’Europa, ci impone alcune riflessioni ma soprattutto ribadisce l’urgenza di rinnovare al più presto la sfida del dialogo ecumenico. A tal proposito, in Occidente c’è la tendenza a equiparare tutte le comunità orientali come ortodosse, ma si tratta di un luogo comune errato. È necessario allora che il dialogo ecumenico venga avviato non solo con i nostri fratelli ortodossi, ma anche con tutte le altre confessioni che si trovano in Oriente e che sono unite dalla guida del successore di Pietro, ovvero il Papa”. È quanto ha affermato il cardinale Leonardo Sandri, prefetto della Congregazione per le Chiese orientali, nel corso della lectio magistralis che ha tenuto oggi pomeriggio all’Università Cattolica di Milano. L’intervento del cardinale, dal titolo “Visione del Concilio Vaticano II circa le Chiese orientali cattoliche e sviluppi successivi: le competenze della Congregazione per le Chiese orientali”, si è tenuto alla presenza del rettore della Cattolica, Franco Anelli, e del preside della Facoltà di Giurisprudenza, Gabrio Forti.
“L’obiettivo che dobbiamo perseguire – ha aggiunto il card. Sandri – è quello del dialogo interreligioso, ma questo deve partire dalle basi che i cattolici d’Oriente hanno costruito e consolidato nel corso dei tanti secoli di convivenza con i musulmani. È solo in questo modo che può rinascere l’anima dei cristiani, perché se non ci fossero più i cristiani nel Medioriente, non ci sarebbe più nemmeno il Medioriente”.

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martedì, luglio 19, 2016

 

In Iraq le croci illuminano la notte per esorcizzare la paura

Sylvain Dorient

Due sono i pilastri della presenza cristiana ad Alqosh: il primo, il sacerdote, spicca tra i suoi interlocutori per la sua statura, avvolta in una tonaca nera. Si adatta ai capelli e alla barba, entrambi nerissimi, che evocano il profilo di un guerriero persiano. L’altro è un vero guerriero, con barba e capelli grigi che contrastano con i suoi autoritari occhi neri. Si mostra comunque affabile alla presenza di padre Haram. Saluta anche con un bacio il suo interlocutore, com’è abitudine tra gli amici in Oriente. In base a quanto afferma questo colonnello peshmerga, “questo prete è mio cugino”.

Riconciliati di fronte al Daesh
Il militare, curdo, assicura la difesa della zona tra gli jihadisti e Alqosh. Il sacerdote, assiro, assicura con la sua autorità e la sua presenza accanto agli abitanti del villaggio che i cristiani hanno ancora il proprio posto nelle loro terre ancestrali e non c’è motivo di fuggire. In altri tempi, curdi e assiri erano nemici. Qui, a 45 chilometri a nord di Mosul, i cristiani ricordano che i curdi hanno partecipato al genocidio del 1915, ma è anche vero che i peshmerga curdi hanno protetto i cristiani contro il Daesh nel 2014, evitando che la follia jihadista diffondesse il loro regime di terrore nel Kurdistan iracheno.

Amicizie orientali
Il colonnello spiega che il padre del sacerdote Haram è stato professore di suo padre. “Grazie a lui mio padre è diventato un uomo istruito”, afferma. “Grazie a lui, oggi io sono colonnello!” Quest’uomo, che resiste nella zona tanto spesso oggetto di attacchi, si sente “orgoglioso di proteggere i cristiani”. Alcuni mesi fa il Daesh ha sferrato una nuova offensiva finendo per impossessarsi brevemente di Telskuf, un altro villaggio cristiano, oggi una distesa di rovine abitata da militari.

Ai confini della piana di Ninive
Alqosh si appoggia alla catena di colline che chiude la parte settentrionale della piana di Ninive. Ai suoi piedi, i campi di cereali, bruciati dal sole, ricordano un deserto giallo paglia in cui la monotonia viene turbata solo dalle rovine e dai bastioni curdi. Dall’alto delle colline, gli abitanti sono testimoni dei bombardamenti; alcuni di loro partecipano alla difesa della propria terra avendo aderito alle milizie cristiane. Tutte le notti illuminano delle grandi croci sui rilievi che circondano le proprie case.
Dicono che fanno impazzire gli jihadisti, perché riescono a vedere le croci da lontano ma non possono abbatterle. Immaginano i loro nemici che lanciano maledizioni contro di loro, “gli infedeli” che vivono sotto il simbolo di Gesù, il loro Salvatore, il Principe della Pace, a solo qualche chilometro dal loro odio e dalle loro armi.
 
Traduzione dallo spagnolo a cura di Roberta Sciamplicotti

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Barzani cerca l'appoggio dei cristiani all'indipendenza del Kurdistan iracheno

By Fides
 
Un referendum futuro per sancire la piena indipendenza del Kurdistan iracheno e l'assicurazione che i cristiani potranno tornare a vivere come “padroni di casa” nei villaggi della Piana di Ninive conquistati dai miliziani dell'autoproclamato Stato Islamico (Daesh), quando i jihadisti saranno sconfitti e anche Mosul verrà liberata. Sono questi alcuni dei punti chiave toccati nell'incontro svoltosi sabato scorso, 16 luglio, a Erbil, tra il leader curdo Masud Barzani, Presidente della Regione autonoma del Kurdistan iracheno, e i rappresentanti di sigle e partiti politici formati da leader e attivisti cristiani e operanti nella regione.
I contenuti dell'incontro, richiamati anche nei comunicati diffusi dalla Presidenza della Regione autonoma del Kurdistan, documentano l'intenzione del Presidente Barzani di coinvolgere tali formazioni politiche nell'elaborazione di un piano preliminare sull'assetto politico futuro della Regione, prima della riconquista di Mosul e della definitiva liberazione delle terre attualmente controllate dal Daesh (date evidentemente per scontate e imminenti).
Riferendosi ai politici cristiani, Barzani ha ribadito che “queste persone hanno il diritto di determinare il proprio futuro” e li ha invitati a rimanere soggetti attivi nel processo politico che coinvolge l'intera area. L'ipotesi prefigurata nei colloqui è sempre quella di fare della Piana di Ninive una “provincia autonoma a maggioranza cristiana”; e poi permettere agli abitanti della Provincia di scegliere, attraverso un referendum, il proprio inquadramento politico sotto il governo di un Kurdistan iracheno indipendente, piuttosto che sotto il governo federale con sede a Baghdad.
Il comunicato della presidenza della Regione autonoma del Kurdistan iracheno, pervenuto all'Agenzia Fides, sottolinea l'urgenza di trovare un accordo previo sul futuro profilo politico dell'area, che garantisca ai gruppi minoritari di vivere in pace e sicurezza, senza essere esposti alle violenze e alle discriminazioni subite a più riprese nelle varie fasi storiche. garantire la vita dei gruppi in sicurezza senza essere esposti ai problemi del passato. Il disegno strategico curdo sembra appunto quello di riconoscere autonomia amministrativa alle aree dove sono concentrate le minoranze, nel quadro di una progressiva affermazione del progetto indipendentista. Per questo, ai gruppi minoritari viene chiesto anche di impegnarsi militarmente a fianco delle forze curde Peshmerga nella liberazione di Mosul e delle terre ancora in mano ai jihadisti.
La conquista di Mosul e della Piana di Ninive da parte del Daesh ha provocato la fuga di circa 120mila cristiani, gran parte dei quali sono ancora dislocati come rifugiati ad Erbil e in altre aree del Kurdistan iracheno.

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lunedì, luglio 18, 2016

 

Iraqi refugees start integrating into Czech society

 
Forty Iraqi refugees who came to the Czech Republic within a programme of the Generation 21 Endowment have already moved to flats, they are learning Czech and some started to work, the group has said on its web page.
It pays for the stay of the refugees in the Czech Republic. One half of them are in Prague and one half in Cesky Tesin, north Moravia.
At first, the endowment wanted to bring 153 Christians from Iraq. However, it eventually only transported 89 of them.
In April, the government cancelled the project after a group of 25 refugees left for Germany. Now German authorities want to return them to the Czech Republic.
An eight-member family felt so homesick that it left back for Iraq and another 16 refugees also left. The endowment provides care to the remaining 40.
In Prague, the refugees are helped by the Salvation Army that is in charge of five families with children, one married couple, two single women and one man.
"All of them already live in flats, scattered across Prague. They are intensively learning Czechs," Salvation Army coordinator Petr Janousek has told CTK.
"Children have enrolled in schools where their teaching starts in September. Some of them are now in a children's camp, others are getting ready for it," Janousek said.
The refugees have already been granted asylum in the Czech Republic.
The last families in Prague may fetch their documents with biometric data next week.
Asylum holders can seek work without a work permit in the Czech Republic.
One of the men has already been employed by an IT firm, Janousek said.
"None of them intends to escape anywhere. But it is difficult for them. After a few months in safety, depression appears among them," he added.
"They realise that the new situation is for long, maybe forever," Janousek said.
All asylum holders are trying to be integrated into the Czech Republic. However, they faced problems with housing because some landlords did not want foreigners in their houses, he added.
Others resented people from the Middle East or Iraqi refugees. The housing costs are covered by the endowment, but the asylum holders have the rent contract.
The endowment has dismissed the speculations that it wants to bring some more refugees to the Czech Republic.
"We are not thinking of this in the foreseeable future," the endowment said.
"The media was only told that if the situation basically alters, we do not fully rule out an attempt at something like this in the future," it added.
The people who devote their efforts to the refugees hope that the government will reconsider its position and will allow in those who could not come due to the cancellation of the project at the last moment.
"Now the people know what expects them. They are in contact with those who are already here. They have undergone a selection process," Janousek said.

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Poland: Calling on youth at WYD to remember suffering Christians

Clare Creegan
 
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need will invite those taking part in the event in Krakow, Poland from 26th-31st July to show solidarity with oppressed and persecuted Christians.
The ACN “Let’s be One” campaign is an opportunity for all young people to connect with others who share their faith in the presence of the Pope. ACN has collaborated with the production studio Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) to produce several short videos reflecting a day in the life of young Catholics in such countries as Israel, Papua New Guinea, Iraq, Cuba, Kenya and Poland.
Describing the campaign, Mark von Riedemann, ACN’s Director of Communications, said: “It is our call to be one with the suffering Church; but also that young people experiencing challenges to the Faith around the world are also united with us in Krakow through this campaign. “They will join us in prayer, knowing that we are one body, one Church.” To provide a greater insight into the day-to-day realities for Christians in different countries CRTN has also been offered the opportunity to screen a selection of its documentaries and short productions at the Kijów cinema throughout WYD.
Father Waldemar Cislo, Director of ACN national office in Poland, described a key feature of the ‘Let’s Be One’ campaign – a musical presentation titled ‘Because of My Name’. He said: “Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. We cannot remain silent in the face of such suffering and cruelty. “As word and music are one of the best means to reach young people, ACN decided to prepare for World Youth Day an oratorio (a piece of sacred music) called ‘Because of My Name’, dedicated to persecuted Christians. “Nowadays young people are being told that faith is not important, that it is not fashionable. “Meanwhile in many places around the world Christians are being forced to make a dramatic decision: to renounce Christ and save their life, or remain faithful. Very often, they chose the latter. “With the oratorio, we want to show young people that Christ and faith are what is most important in life. “This musical piece is also a call from ACN to those who rule this world not to be indifferent to the struggle of Christians who die for their Faith.”
Composed by Piotr Rubik, from Poland, the oratorio will be presented at the Main Square (Rynek Główny) in Krakow on Friday, 29th July after the Way of the Cross led by the Pope. ACN has also been invited by the WYD Committee to take part in the Way of the Cross. A group of 21 representatives from different countries will carry the Cross from the second to the third station: Jesus falls for the first time. Of the event, Mark von Riedemann said: “This visible sign of unity is the witness to our campaign ‘Let’s be One’.”

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Asia News sostiene i giovani profughi di Mosul alla Gmg in Polonia

 
Un gruppo di profughi cristiani irakeni, fuggiti da Mosul e dalla piana di Ninive nell’estate 2014 per l’ascesa dello Stato islamico (SI), si prepara con incontri e preghiere alle Giornate mondiali della Gioventù (Gmg), in programma in Polonia dal 27 al 31 luglio. In queste settimane AsiaNews si è attivata con diversi sponsor devolvendo una somma di 25mila euro alla Chiesa irakena, con l’obiettivo di contribuire alle spese di viaggio e pernottamento dei giovani. 
P. Samir Youssef, parroco della diocesi di Amadiya (Kurdistan), che cura 3500 famiglie di profughi cristiani, musulmani, yazidi, ringrazia a nome dei ragazzi e delle ragazze tutti gli sponsor e la nostra agenzia “per l’aiuto concreto”, senza il quale “era difficile realizzare il pellegrinaggio”.
“Vi ringraziano molto - aggiunge il sacerdote caldeo, originario di Mosul - e pregano per voi. Anche io vi ricordo in modo particolare nelle mie preghiere”. 
Domani, 19 luglio, i giovani irakeni partiranno per Wroclaw dove è in programma una settimana di animazione missionaria, in preparazione alla Gmg e all’incontro con papa Francesco. Al termine la partenza per Cracovia, dove i giovani irakeni parteciperanno alla Via Crucis e reciteranno il “Padre Nostro” in aramaico
Saranno oltre 200 i giovani irakeni - fra ragazzi e ragazze - presenti all’evento, provenienti da tutte le diocesi del Paese. Alla guida della delegazione mons. Warda, mons. Basilio Yaldo (vice del patriarca caldeo Louis Raphael Sako), una decina di sacerdoti e un gruppo di suore. 

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