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 A Yazidi refugee awaits for his turn at a distribution event organized by CRS and Caritas Iraq at the Church of Apostles in Fishkhabour, Iraq ©Hare Khalid / Metrography for Catholic Relief Services

A Yazidi refugee awaits for his turn at a distribution event organized by CRS and Caritas Iraq at the Church of Apostles in Fishkhabour, Iraq
©Hare Khalid / Metrography for Catholic Relief Services

This article is based on an open letter to Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako of Babylon and Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, President of Caritas Iraq.

It’s with great sorrow that we must witness destructive violence in Iraq. It’s with aching hearts that we observe the massive displacement of 1.2 million people. Most of them are civilians trying to escape appalling atrocities in the hope of saving their lives and their families.

It grieves us to see images of people who have been robbed of every possession. They have been left with no means to buy food or attend to their basic needs. We know that many people have lost their lives in flight, such as 40 children who died from lack of water.

Despite advances in recognising the rights of minorities within the international community, the atrocities in your country concern these very same groups: Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, Shabaks, Madaeans and others. When will our global human family begin to learn from history? The marking of Christian homes with the Arabic letter for “N” [N for ‘Nazarene’] recalls another atrocity from the last century.

“Violence is never defeated by violence. Violence is conquered by peace,” said Pope Francis. How can members of the same family inflict such atrocities on their own people in the name of religion. Or is it rather the greed for power that inflicts such violence on so many innocent people.

Extremists calling themseleves Islamic State must cease inflicting atrocities on their brothers and sisters. All sides of the conflict need to work towards building peaceful societies, where all human persons, whether in minority or majority communities can live together in peace.

We share a deep concern that this most recent surge of violence may push back Christian and Muslim dialogue. It may destroy the peaceful coexistence that is enjoyed by many Muslims and Christians in all parts of the world, including the Middle East.

To my Brothers in Episcopal Ministry and all people of good will, your courage and witness is deeply moving as you stand against these crimes against humanity. Caritas staff, volunteers and supporters accompany you at this moment of crisis. Together we can raise a “continuous prayer to ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of peace” in the land of Abraham, the Patriarch. His memory is sacred to all Jewish, Christian, and Muslim people, since he passed on to us our love and faith in the one God.

Support the work of Caritas in Iraq in providing food, water, shelter and basic needs to families forced from their homes.

We send our love, support and solidarity to all those courageous aid workers of Caritas, of religious congregations and other organisations who provide practical help in local communities. You are working humbly in the service of our Jesus Christ: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

We join our voices to yours as we advocate with religious and civil leaders to ensure the safety of affected people. The rule of law must be upheld. No more weapons must reach those committing these crimes against human life and dignity.

Let us remain committed to promote and support a culture of peaceful dialogue that strives to establish solidarity and shared responsibility among all peoples in all nations.