Displaced Christians wait for humanitarian aid July 20 at a church in the Iraqi town of Hamdaniya, east of Mosul. Chaldean Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona of Mosul said the Islamic State, which took control of Iraq's second-largest city in early June, is car rying out "religious cleansing." CNS photo/Reuters

Harper denounces persecution of Christians in Iraq

  • July 23, 2014

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement July 22 denouncing the persecution of Iraqi Christians.

“Canada condemns the systematic campaign of persecution that is being perpetrated in the city of Mosul, Iraq, by the Islamic State terrorist group,” said Harper. “Its ultimatum — pay the jizya (tax on non-Muslims), convert, leave the city or be killed — is the most recent measure aimed at forcing hundreds of thousands of Christians to convert to the Islamic State’s nefarious brand of Islam.

“Forced conversions, by threat of death, are an egregious violation of the fundamental human right to the freedom of religion,” the prime minister said.

The Islamic State is “working to eradicate” religious freedom, he warned. The Iraqi people and the international community cannot “surrender” to what he described as an “ever increasing campaign of violence.”

Harper called on the Iraqi government to protect the rights of all its citizens, regardless of religion or ethnic origin. 

“The Islamic State’s ever-increasing campaign of violence endangers all individuals who do not share its beliefs, and threatens the very foundations of Iraq’s future as a secure, democratic and prosperous country.”

CNEWA Canada’s Carl Hétu said he appreciated the Prime Minister’s strong statement on Christian persecution. 

“It needs to be denounced.”

CNEWA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association) is in constant touch with religious leaders and communities in the region, he said. The reports they are receiving are “a lot worse than what the public media are telling us.”

The Islamic State radicals “are basically wiping out” any sign or mark of Christian presence in Mosul, he said. They are eradicating evidence of Christian identity, destroying manuscripts, stealing crosses and other religious artifacts, emptying out religious communities and 30 churches in Mosul, a city where Christians have lived for centuries, before the advent of Islam.

“They are totally making the city an Islamic town, moving anything in their path,” he said. 

Not only Christians are at risk, he said. 

“They will destroy any other ideology not their own, even other kinds of Islam.”

CNEWA, a charity of the Holy See, is organizing aid for the Christians in Iraq. It launched a campaign in early July. 

“The campaign is doing very well,” Hétu said. “People are responding very generously. We invite people to continue.

“People have no jobs, no revenues. They have lost everything,” he said. “They are living on what little they have and that won’t last long.”

In a statement issued to parishes July 21, Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins called on faithful in the archdiocese to pray for Christians suffering persecution in Mosul and other parts of the Middle East and for an end to violence there and elsewhere in the world. 

Local parishes are encouraged to develop local initiatives, in terms of prayer, Mass intentions, novenas and eucharistic adoration.

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