Iraq’s Christians Facing a Human Catastrophe

Praying rosary in Iraq“They are facing a human catastrophe and risk a real genocide. They need, water, food, shelter…” These were the words of the leader of Iraq’s biggest Catholic community as he made an impassioned plea for help to the international community following the fall of Iraq’s largest Christian town on the night of August 6th-7th.

In an open letter, Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako described the humanitarian crisis that followed the seizure of Qaraqosh by jihadist group ISIS (now calling itself the Islamic State) after Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers withdrew.

Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of BaghdadPatriarch Sako said, “The Christians, about one hundred thousand, horrified and panicked fled their villages and houses [with] nothing but with the clothes on their backs.”

Describing the event as “an exodus, a real via crucis” he went on to add, “Christians are walking on foot in Iraq’s searing summer heat towards the Kurdish cities of Erbil, Duhok and Soulaymiyia, the sick, the elderly, infants and pregnant women among them.”

Patriarch Sako called on the international community to intervene in the current crisis as he accused the Iraqi government of being unable to restore security in the Ninevah Plains.

He said, “We appeal with sadness and pain to the conscience of all, and all people of good will and the United Nations and the European Union, to save these innocent persons from death. We hope it is not too late!”

Not only did the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church state that “the Central Government is incapable of enforcing law and order in this part of the country” but expressed “doubts about the capacity of the Kurdistan Region alone to defend the fierce advance of the jihadists”, describing a lack of cooperation between central government and the Kurdish regional authority.

Patriarch Sako also said “international support and a professional, well equipped army” was key to protecting citizens from ISIS attack.

Pope Francis echoed the patriarch’s plea for the international community to help Iraq’s Christian refugees.

A statement issued by Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi: “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.”

Aid to the Church in Need has provided $134,200 in emergency aid to help displaced families on the Nineveh Plains.

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide. For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384. www.churchinneed.org