Let’s help our fellow Christians in Iraq

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THOSE of us Filipinos who pray should bombard heaven with prayers imploring God for a miracle to convert the dishonest, cruel and hypocritical officials of the Aquino Administration who are merrily doing what they like against the rule of law, all for their self-interests and not caring for the well-being of our Republic and the people.

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But we should not be consumed only by the corruption of the Aquino officials.

There should be room in our hearts and minds for our poor suffering fellow Christians in Iraq and Syria. There the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has now declared their conquered territories to be that of the Caliphate of the Islamic State (IS).

Since July, forces of the radical Islamist ISIS, which some, including Muslims, call terrorists, have taken over areas in Iraq and Syria and committed atrocities against their hated co-religionists the Shiite Muslims, the Christians and other minorities.

Reports say the IS has imposed a bloody reign of terror, beheaded Shiite Muslims and Christians as well as members of other religions, razed and blew up Christian churches and ancient sacred shrines that preceded the birth of Islam by about 700 years. Among those destroyed were the tomb of Jonah and the Cathedral of St. Ephraim. They burned sacred manuscripts and destroyed liturgical art. They hounded thousands of Christians and followers of other minority religions out of their homes willed to them by their first-century Christian ancestors.

In some places, Christians and other minorities who have remained alive are being given a choice by the Caliphate to convert to Sunni Islam or be executed or be allowed to leave carrying a permit but only after surrendering their property in writing and paying of a fine.

It’s truly a humanitarian disaster and a cruel fate for Christians in this part of the world—where the Garden of Eden is believed to be—whose branch of the Christian Church St. Thomas the Apostle founded here.

Zenit.org, the Catholic news agency, reported on Friday–under the heading “Cardinal Sandri: These Are Acts Against God, Against All Humanity. Vatican Official Decries Mass Exodus of Christians Forced to Leave Their Homes”—that “The prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches has called for an end to the forced exodus of Christians in Iraq and Syria and appealed for humanitarian intervention in the region.”

Cardinal Sandri’s statement came hours after the Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, “made a statement on behalf of Pope Francis, calling for dialogue, reconciliation, and an end to violence.”

The Zenit report said, “after thanking Pope Francis for his support and closeness to those suffering, Cardinal Sandri lamented that ‘more than 100,000 Christians that had to leave their homes, churches and villages’ in the plain of Nineveh in Iraq in the night and ‘now wander to the city of Erbil in impossible conditions,’ trying to survive.

Cardinal Sandri expressed his hopes that “the civil world, public authorities and international organizations will not delay in their indispensable humanitarian interventions, as well as at every other level, to halt, especially in Iraq and Syria, the painful and profoundly unjust exodus of Christians.”

We Filipinos are more fortunate than our Christian brethren in Iraq and Syria.

We should pray hard that the sufferings of the Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac, Armenian and other Christians in Iraq be over soon and that they keep their faith.

On Friday (yesterday in Manila), Pope Francis appealed to world leaders to help end the crisis in northern Iraq. Perhaps, our Department of Foreign Affairs can echo that call.

We as individual Filipinos must also be willing to contribute what we can, through the local Caritas branch, to the fund for humanitarian aid for the Christians in Iraq and Syria.

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