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Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians in flight as Islamic State advances

Catholic World News - August 08, 2014

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled their homes as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized several Christian towns in northern Iraq, including Bakhdida (Qaraqosh), the nation’s largest Christian town.

The jihadist group now controls 30% of Syria and over 40% of Iraq.

“The churches are occupied, their crosses were taken down,” said Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church, to which the majority of Iraq’s Christians belong. “The government is unable to defend our people, as is the Kurdistan government. They need to work together, receive international support and modern military equipment.”

“It’s a catastrophe, a tragic situation,” said Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk. “We call on the UN Security Council to immediately intervene. Tens of thousands of terrified people are being displaced as we speak, it cannot be described.”

In addition to persecuting Christians, the Islamic State has also persecuted the Yazidi, who adhere to an ancient religion related to Zoroastrianism. Tens of thousands of Yazidi fled to the Sinjar Mountain ridge, where they risked dying of thirst.

As the Islamic State advanced on Erbil, a city of 1.5 million that is the capital of the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan, President Barack Obama said he would protect the American consulate there and assist the Yazidi on the mountain ridge.

“To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city,” he said.

“And these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yezidis, a small and ancient religious sect,” he continued. “When we face a situation like we do on that mountain -- with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help -- in this case, a request from the Iraqi government -- and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.”

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Aug. 08, 2014 11:09 PM ET USA

    Notice that Obama continues the nonsense we have heard since the unlamented days of George W Bush, the assertion that the perpetrators are "terrorists". (Btw, aren't these the same "terrorists" Obama once wanted to defend with our own air force?) Why can't he and other Western pols bring themselves to talk straight for a change and to say what we all know too well, viz. that these "terrorists" are, in fact, nothing more nor less than good Muslims?

  • Posted by: FredC - Aug. 08, 2014 9:11 PM ET USA

    Obama will help the Zoroastrians but NEVER the Christians -- anywhere in the world.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Aug. 08, 2014 11:08 AM ET USA

    "President Barack Obama said he would protect the American consulate there and assist the Yazidi on the mountain ridge..." Really??? Prove me a fool...

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