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SOS from the Church in Iraq

The following letter was sent today by Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, the president of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops of Iraq, to Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity that provides assistance to persecuted Christians throughout the world. The letter speaks for itself.

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Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.



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Father Lombardi issued a statement today which said in part:

His Holiness urgently calls on the international community to protect all those affected or threatened by the violence, and to guarantee all necessary assistance – especially the most urgently needed aid – to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others.

How might we manifest solidarity beyond individual prayers?


The U.N. needs to call an emergency session and condemn these outrages by ISIS.  They then need to deploy a large multi-national force to stop the killing and displacement of Christians and others perescuted by ISIS.  

There seems little will among the Western powers to become involved in the violence in Iraq, especially in light of the Shia-dominated government’s failure in the past, and continuing resistance at present, to include substantial numbers of Sunnis in the government. In addition, the world’s attention has been focused elsewhere—Ukraine/Russia, Israel/Gaza, for example. The U.S., in particular, is Iraq weary, in part because of our continuing military involvement in Afghanistan and the financial and human toll that experience has exacted. All the while in a world with diverted attention, ISIS is committing atrocities that cry out for redress. I don’t see any relief in sight, however, except perhaps a military intervention by the UN, and even that possible source of hope seems more a mirage than a reality. Meanwhile, brutalities like the one reported today on CNN—ISIS forced a Christian at gunpoint to convert to Islam and then killed him anyway—will continue unabated.     

The US! Britain and the entire coalition of the willing have a moral and ethical duty to,protect thes minorities from what is clearly, plainly, and evidently genocide in the truest sense of the word. The us can bomb Isis strong points and drop humanitarian aid. A humintarian corridor can be established. This is all vey doable. It should happen tonight!

This column by Jonah Goldberg makes a relevant point: 

It's worth at least pointing out a key difference between the potential genocide in Iraq and the heart-wrenching slaughters in Congo and Sudan: The latter aren't our fault. But if genocide unfolds in Iraq after American troops depart, it would be hard to argue that we weren't at least partly to blame. Yes, the mass murder would have more immediate authors than the United States of America, but we would undeniably be responsible, at least in part, for giving a green light to genocide.


There will be an emergency meeting of the security council of the UN in a few hours.

Jonah Goldberg is exactly right!


There ae multiple levels at which action is needed, each of them difficut in its way.   By all means, let's have a discssion in the UN.   Impacts of that n ISIS will be zero, bu the developin an international consensus is good.

A humanitarian relief effort und conditions of war is very difficult, but doable,  so long as US/NATO can get and keep Turkey on side.  The only access tha  is remotely feasibe is from Turkey throgh the Kurdish lands, and to the refugees.

Fine suppose that can be arranged.   Now what: the refugees are moved to souheastern Turkey: then what?  Turkey cannot be expected to give long-term shelter to all the refugees (more than Christians, of course) who need releif.   So we will need to support our NATO ally, in exchange for rights of passgage, by providing long-term sanctuary elsewhere.  Reastically, "long-term" is a euphamism for "permanent", as we are doing with thousands of Chaldeans in El Centro and elsewhere aready.

That is where we need to put a great deal of effort that is not rhetorical.   We need to find locations where they will be welcomed and supported and provided a path forward.   No whinging by the locals about traffic issues, or impact on schools, or whether they are carrying ebola, or health-care costs, or any of the other rubbish that we throw out when we do not want "strangers" in our back yards.  That is neeed in Europe, among our allies in th ME, and here in North America.



The criteria for a just war are met here.  Right now, the thing that would help our brothers and sisters in Iraq most would be air strikes designed to kill as many of the murderers in ISIS as possible.

Our local evening news reports that President Obama has ordered humanitarian air drops to the refugees, and has authorized limited military involvement in Iraq to protect the city of Erbil.

Meanwhile, brutalities like the one reported today on CNN—ISIS forced a Christian at gunpoint to convert to Islam and then killed him anyway—will continue unabated.    

Indeed and well said.  President Obama has now indicated that he is authorizing airstrikes to protect Americans and Iraq religiuos minorities trapped and starving on a mountain while the muslims wait in anxious anticipation of lording it over them if they come down and have to choose to convert or die.  Gotta love that Islam.  That Mohammed-what a guy!  HE would never do anything like that.  With him it was all love and peace and can't we all just get along?

The president is now indicating he has a pair, and God bless him for that, and pass the ammunition.

From today's (Friday) New York Times editorial:

The United States, Turkey and other allies should move quickly to meet the Kurds’ needs for ammunition and weapons as well as advice on more effectively deploying the pesh merga and integrating Kurdish operations with Iraqi security forces. Under pressure from the United States, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq finally agreed this week to cooperate with the Kurds and to provide air support, and should continue to do so.

That will still leave Mr. Obama with the task of framing a broader strategy that involves Saudi Arabia, the Arab League and the United Nations, just to start.

I left a quick comment on the White House website and its Facebook page encouraging the US to use all of our resources to protect the Christians and Yazidis under attack in Iraq.


A small step on the part of the Vatican today. The Press Office reports:

Alla luce della grave situazione in Iraq, il Santo Padre ha nominato l’ Card. Fernando Filoni, Prefetto della Congregazione per l’Evangelizzazione dei popoli, Suo Inviato Personale per esprimere la Sua vicinanza spirituale alle popolazioni che soffrono e portare loro la solidarietà della Chiesa.

In light of the grave situation in Iraq, the Holy Father has named Cardinal Filoni has personal envoy to express his closeness to the suffering peoples and to bring them the solidarity of the Church.

I have written to suggest that the Pope proclaim a Vigil and fast to be held in Saint Peter's Square, perhaps on the eve of his departure for Korea.

US aircraft are bombing ISIS artillery positions near Arbil.


By all means there is a moral obligation to stop these ISIS thugs gangs from their murderous terror and ethnic cleansing agenda. Let's not turn our moral high ground against them  into a call to subjugate  Muslims.I recall when in Syria, Assad had  obliterated a Sunnis village, very few  here called that an attempt at genocide of Sunnis.I recall specifically hearing on PBS before it happened and it was apparent that it would happen,pundits on PBS saying  that we should just accept that Assad would anniliate that Sunni village.Regarding the Assad regimes targeting of Sunnis, the media and the politicians  were saying unabashedly;Muslims killing Muslims; pass the popcorn.Or as Sarah Palin said "Muslims killing Muslims;let Allah sort it out".So if killing of Christians and other minorities  and ethnic cleansing is wrong ,that  works both ways. And lets not take the legitimate moral imperative to stop the murdering ISIS as a legitimation of the Maliki govermnent which has been oppressing Sunnis by also resorting to murder, torture and imprisonment without due process.Baghdad was, prior to our invasion, a fifty- fifty Sunni/Shia city and the populations were mixed. It was our war there that turned Baghdad into a majority Shia city.How did that happen? We murdered most of the Sunnis of Baghdad with the support of the Kurds and  Shias!These events in Iraq and in Syria is what fuels the ISIS fanatics, who believe that the world is at war with Sunni Islam.

That was a different situation Rose. That involved a civil war and it was not at all clear who used the chemical weapons. Both had access and both had committed atrocities in the past. At issue there was which side to pick in the conflict. Recall also that they very opposition to Assad were the same type and affiliates as ISIS. ISIS, right now, is using American made weapons. Whether that is due to theft and confiscation or funnelling of arms to groups associated with them via Libya, we just don't know. 

In this situation, you have innocent people literally marched out of their homes. They are completely defenseless and have not done anything to provoke any conflict.They are not part of any political or revolutionary political and military movement. They are being targetted solely because of their religious identity.

And there was actually a long term solution that occurred in Syria. With the Russians and Americans working together, Assad turned over his stockpile of chemical weapons. The concern was that the other side would have access to them but with international observers present, the parties agreed that it was fair.

As far as long term in Iraq, there needs to be more robust diplomatic engagment at the front end so that their institutions are truly representative of the various ethnicities in Iraq. But in order for a political solution to occurr, you require stability and that stability is purchased by a a fair rule of law and a strong military and police force charged with maintaining order. Furthermore that rule of law needs to be consistent with international standards as outlined in the universal declaration of human rights at the UN which guarantees religious freedom. And also the declaration on the rights of the child. 

Finally, Sarah Palin.....really......she had her 15 minutes, time for her to exit the stage.....


This is also totally brazen. They are not even denying that they are doing this. They are doing so in broad daylight in complete transparency! There is simply no way that the Arab and Mulsim world can allow this to continue. I bet you see responsible leaders suppporting the US even more vocally now if not joining in the effort. this could be a defning moment for the Muslim world too. They are awaiting their Luther and Vatican II!

The situation in Syria started no differently then in  Egypt; peaceful demonstations against the Assad  dictatorship.It was met   immediately by Assad forces  with killing of protestors ,arrests and torture prisons.A week into this I realized that Assad was a militarized brutal regime which would resort to mass murder rather then relinquish its police state . Here in the West no one cared about Assad's tactics. You want to call a militarized dictatorship going up  against those who are fed up and rise up against it ,a civil war? I guess it is but that dismisses what was  and is  happening which is as much ethnic cleansing as what ISIS is doing now.The difference being that Assad's regime has even more military power then ISIS does.And now even the support of the West. The Sunnis of Syria are also innocent men,women and children being targeted by Assad Alawite  forces.If peaceful demonstrations, against a military regime is considered a  provocation and legitimate  grounds for retaliating with bombings and prisons,and murder of men,women and children,then our values are skewed.But yes as a result of our inaction in coming to THEIR rescue, the fanatic ISIS have been empowered.And yes we have an obligation to stop their ethnic cleansing and terror tactics.Notice their teror  tactics did not impel us to stop them in Syria.When confined to Syria the cynical malicious response "let allah sort it out" was the prevailing response to both Assad and isis, which stopped Obama from acting on his own red line against Assad engaged in a holocaust of Sunnis. To dismiss the Syria situatioin as  a cival war is to deny that the Sunnis of Syria have been and are being targeted  for being Sunnis,and have been for like 3 years already.Assad's chemical weapons are the tip of the ice berg here. His regime continues to engage in mass murder of Sunni men ,women and children.They have the right to be protected in Syria as much  minorities in ISIS controlled Iraq have the right to be protected.And that is why Sara Palins comments are still revelvant; as the consensus here in the West has been, with few exceptions, that it does not matter how many innocent people are dying in Syria.How many people Assad's regimes kills is not our concern or now even worse;he's doing the right thing in going after ISIS and all Syrian Sunnis are now virtual ISIS themselves. The Sunnis who rose up to topple this brutal dictatorship, if they don't quite deserve to be murdered by Assad, well they provoked it and so it is acceptable that a military dictatorship engages in mass murder of its own people!As long  as long as Assad does not go after the Christians and Kurds.

Drew Christiansen, S.J., offers a proposal that merits, I think, serious consideration -- though it does not respond to the pressing need for action now.

Finally, Sarah Palin.....really......she had her 15 minutes, time for her to exit the stage.....


There's a commercial for esurance out this way:  "15 minutes has had its 15 minutes."

Sara Palin, Dick Cheney and their ilk have had way too many "15 minutes."  So long as they are reported, they will spew their nonsense.

Enough already.

Sara Palin, Dick Cheney and their ilk have had way too many "15 minutes."  So long as they are reported, they will spew their nonsense.

Enough already.

Interesting how liberals inadvertantly reveal their true attitudes about freedom of speech.

Asia News is sponsoring a fund raiser to help in this crisis. "Adopt a Christian" is a response to the letter you see in the post.

Does anyone know if they have an effective mechanism to provide help in this instance? I hesitate to give when it's not clear who is going to do what with the funds. There are too many scams in today's world. Anyone have any further info about this?

Caritas Internationalis does not currently enable donations targeting specifically the crisis in Iraq, as far as I can tell. (It may come within a few days!)

In France there is "L'Oeuvre d'Orient",, to serve the churches of the Middle East, and which enables one to make a donation specifically for Iraq.


I was in a conversation yesterday about the appropriateness of helping the Christians of Iraq.

Some of us were saying: we are Christian, they are Christian, and they are now being persecuted precisely because they are Christian. We owe them our help on those grounds.

Others were saying: helping certain other people more than others because of what they share with us (nationality, race, religion, etc.) is a natural but narrow-minded reaction. One should broaden one's scope and not give priority to Christians. Instead, we should give priority in our help to the victims whose need is most dire: the children, the old, the handicapped, the sick. That's what should matter when choosing where to put one's resources, instead of what religion they are.

I wonder whether that is why the exodus of the Christians of Iraq is treated with relative indifference.


Thank you for the link to L'Oeuvre d'Orient. And thank you for the comment, to which I have a couple of responses.

First, if someone says Christians should show no special solidarity toward other Christians but should instead "give priority in our help to the victims whose need is most dire," the obvious answer is: Who is currently in more need than the Christians who have been chased out of their homes at gun point by ISIS? There are actual crucifixions. At least one person was forced to convert to Islam and then executed anyway. A cool universalism is no warrant for inaction in this case. It is certainly no warrant for indifference.

Second, I question the consistency of that universalism. Do you think the people who took this line in your conversation believe that they have no more responsibility to come to the aid of family members than to help complete strangers? Do you believe they think the French government should cease to provide material support to the poor of France and should instead send its money to poorer people in other parts of the world? After all, most of the poor in France (or in America) are much richer than millions of people in India and Africa. So if Christians become sectarians by favoring other Christians, do the French become nationalists by favoring the French? Or is the principle of "charity starts at home" purely geographical?

My feeling about this kind of universalism is that it is to be commended as a noble, if impractable, ideal if it leads people to do more than they would do otherwise. When it leads people to do less, it should be dismissed as self-serving sophistry.

Pope Francis' tweets:
I ask the international community to protect all those suffering violence in Iraq.

I ask all Catholic parishes and communities to offer a special prayer this weekend for Iraqi Christians.

Matthew, I agree.

Bianchi writes about someone he knows and who was in Qaraqosh:,en/. It's in Italian, but google translate, for once, has an evocative turn of phrase: "All this until yesterday. Then they, too, must be finished, swallowed up in the river of suffering that is sweeping the Christians of that troubled region."


thank you for the Bianchi reference. Here is another of his sentences that hits close to home:

le urgenze di ciascuno di noi sono altre, dalla crisi economica e occupazionale all’organizzazione delle “meritate” ferie...

each of us has other urgent concerns: from the economic and employment crisis to the planning of our well-deserved holidays...

"Interesting how liberals inadvertantly reveal their true attitudes about freedom of speech."

Said freedom is a two-way street.  They can spew and I can opine.

And I'm sure that there is too much money to be made from publishing and broadcasting the rantings and ravings of those in mention to ever shut them off.  Once they no longer "draw," they will be history.

The only thing Palin and Cheney have left to keep their names and faces in the news is to be outrageous.  Bill Clinton can make more money speaking to the Fireside Girls in one evening than Palin and Cheney can make in 6 months.  They are jealous and rely on outrageousness rather than intelligence to sell themselves.

It's interesting that the Chaldean Church in the US, a diaspora community which numbers about 150,000 and is centered mostly in Michigan and California, has absolutely nothing about this issue on their website (Chaldeans on Line). I would have thought they would be actively engaged, even leading the charge in raising awareness and support for the displaced and threatened community to which they are linked so deeply. Perhaps individual church communities are involved, but if so it hasn't raised a web presence.

I happen to know a member of this community, and we've talked about his church. They are a very tight knit community in the US, and they all know each other. Maybe the web is really for strangers, and they are all scrambling to help through private means? 

Who is currently in more need than the Christians who have been chased out of their homes at gun point by ISIS? 

Perhaps the Palestinian mother and father who this week turned in time to see their child explode.  I am assuming the motives that lead to that tragedy were driven by more than concerns over ownership of real estate, perhaps even religion or at least some zealot's misguided perception of it.  Or, more likely, the question answers itself as so often occurs when referring to the rhetorical "others".


Aid to the church in need, the foundation that received the letter heading this post, does not do humanitarian work:,11,13,,1,,

On the other hand the Catholic Near East Welfare association does "rush basic supplies for the relief of displaced families". It's a papal agency, and currently Cardinal Dolan is the chair and treasurer.

Catholic Relief Services, together with Caritas, is helping displaced families in Iraq.



CARE does not work in Iraq.

Doctors without borders does, but with extreme difficulty: “Providing the most basic assistance and medical care is extremely challenging for humanitarian organizations on the ground, given the security situation."

The international rescue committee recently restarted its work in Iraq:

The UN refugees agency appears to have been working primarily with Syrian refugees in the Middle East:

The Jesuit refugee services do not work in Iraq but serve Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan and Turkey:

The Red Cross has been working with hospitals in Iraq:

Rita, I am not sure that is anything more than its webmaster's personal project. It doesn't seem to have been updated in some time, has a huge number of dead links, and doesn't seem to cover news.  

You can find ample evidence of the Chaldean diaspora's involvement in current events on officially-sponsored websites such as (the St. Peter-the-Apostle Eparchy's website) and (set up by the St. Thomas-the-Apostle Eparchy to deal with the current situation). The latter website highlights lobbying and fundraising efforts.

Abe Delnore, thank you for those websites. Very helpful. Not knowing the name of the eparchy, I was at a disadvantage. This is more like it. 

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