Aid to the Church in Need News: Wednesday, 3rd December 2014 – IRAQ
With picture of Syrian Catholic Patriarch Joseph III Younan of Antioch and All the East (© www.acnuk.org)
Charity for persecuted Christians announces aid for faithful pouring into Lebanon
By John Newton
WESTERN politicians are ignoring suffering Christians in Iraq thinking they offer no “economic advantage” – according to the head of one of the most ancient Churches in the Middle East.
Patriarch Joseph III Younan of Antioch and all the East said that the Western world had been largely silent about the situation facing Christians in northern Iraq.
The Patriarch’s comments come as ACN today (Wednesday, 3rd December) announces an aid package of more than £63,500 (€80,000) for nearly 2,000 Iraqi refugees in Lebanon being looked after by the Syriac-Catholic Patriarchate.
The aid will provide shelter, food and clothing for more than 1,500 refugees.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need during a visit to Paris, Patriarch Joseph said: “The international policy makers have other policies when it comes to minorities, who have neither the numbers, nor riches to make them attractive. And we have no oil – that is to say, we do not offer any economic advantages.”
He added: “I am here in France and Europe to bring the voice of these communities who were persecuted, forced into exile and deprived of everything because of their Christian faith.
“Unfortunately the supposedly civilised Western world is rather silent.”
Speaking about his visit to Iraqi refugees in Kurdistan, he described some of the problems facing the displaced Christian families.
The Patriarch said: “Morale has become very low. For months refugees have been living in this humanly unbearable situation – they have absolutely nothing…
“They used to live normally, they had their homes, their jobs, their church and they have become, through no fault of their own – just because they were Christians – refugees in their own country, without resources.
“We are going through a very, very tragic time.”
Patriarch Joseph stressed that the region did not have the resources to provide for the needs of the displaced including housing, food, medical care, and schools – estimating that up to 140,000 Christians had fled.
The Catholic Bishops’ Emergency Committee in Iraq has been addressing many of these needs, and in addition to ongoing provision of food and shelter is now putting in place longer-term projects to provide education.
Aid to the Church in Need has backed this latest phase of their emergency help with more than £3 million (€4 million).
Underlining the scale of the threat to Iraq’s Christian community, the Patriarch said: “We were threatened with eradication five months ago when Mosul was invaded by terrorists imposing the Shari‘a.
“The same thing happened…on the Nineveh Plain.
“We, the Syriac Catholic community, were greatly affected. We left everything. We are refugees in our own country.
“So today we must continue to give refugees the confidence and courage, the hope one day they can return home – but that day seems more and more unreal and that’s what makes morale increasingly low.
He added: “We need the international family of nations to take concrete steps to provide justice to refugees and they can return home safely.”
The Patriarch finished by praising the work of Aid to the Church in Need: “I would like to express my deep gratitude to the benefactors of ACN for their help for the Christian victims in northern Iraq.”
Syriac Catholics number up to 200,000, and are present in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Over the last 20 years, 60 percent of Syriac Catholics have fled to other countries.