(Vatican Radio) The leaders of the Churches in the Middle East have appealed to the United Nations to protect minorities in Iraq and Syria from the “massacres and atrocities” being committed by ISIS.
Addressing the UN in Geneva, the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches said that if not strongly condemned and effectively destroyed, then the IS ideology will “damage the entire system of human rights, creating a dangerous precedent of indifference toward the protection of vulnerable people”.
They also said that the atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq and in Syria that presently remain unpunished “also constitute crimes against humanity”.
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Below the full text of the appeal delivered to the United Nations in Geneva:
We, Patriarchs and Bishops of the Churches of the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria, invited by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, have come to give testimony on the dramatic situation in these countries affecting our communities and the whole population.
For almost 2000 years, Christian communities have been continuously living in the region. But, now, particularly in Iraq and Syria, we are targeted by ISIS criminals for our religious conviction, who persecute us in the “name of God”: a clear violation of the fundamental human right to religious freedom. The ideology on which ISIS justifies its aggression is fundamentally contrary to human rights since it leads to genocide, to murder of innocent people, and to other grave abuses.
Thus, the ISIS is a threat not only to Christians and other religious and ethnic groups but also to the whole society, in the Middle East, and to the international community. If not strongly condemned and effectively destroyed, then this ideology will damage the entire system of human rights, creating a dangerous precedent of indifference toward the protection of vulnerable people.
The massacres and atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq and in Syria that presently remain unpunished also constitute crimes against humanity.
Consequently, based on international humanitarian laws, the international community has a duty to intervene and a responsibility to protect the affected communities and individuals as per the definitions developed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in the late years. The responsibility to protect applies when the State – as in the Iraqi situation – is unable to protect its own citizens.
Christians in Iraq should not be deprived of their rights as a religious community as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Christians are to be recognized and treated as equal citizens. They have the right to remain securely in their homeland and protected by the State according to a legal system compliant with human rights.
We strongly demand that humanitarian, financial, social assistance and security be provided to our communities. It is urgent, especially with the coming of the winter season, to guarantee shelter for the displaced people, adequate living conditions, appropriate medical assistance and schooling for children.
While all these provisions are necessary, and urgently so, the appropriate movement of return to abandoned homes and properties must be facilitated by the international community and guaranteed by the action of the United Nations, until the national authorities can exercise their responsibility over all the territory of their country.
The highest priority remains, at this time, the necessity to defeat ISIS and to re-establish the possibility of peaceful co-existence, where the dignity and the rights and duties of each citizen are upheld and respected.
Geneva, 16 September 2014
H.B. Louis Raphaël I Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church
H.B. Ignace III Yousif Yunan, Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch
H.E. Archbishop Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, Archbishop of Mosul (Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East)
H.E. Ignatius Alhoshi, Metropolite of France and Western and Southern Europe (Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of France, Greek Orthodox Church)
H.E. Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, Archbishop of Beirut (Greek Melkite
H.E. Anba Louka E-Baramoussi, Archbishop of Suisse Romande and South of France (Coptic Orthodox Church)
H.E. Giuseppe Nazzaro, Custos Emeritus of the Holy Land, Apostolic Vicar Emeritus in Aleppo (Roman Catholic Church)
Mgr. Ghossan Aljanian, Locum Tenens for the Diocese of Switzerland (Armenian Orthodox Church)