Aid to the Church in Need-USA launches $1M campaign
Aid to the Church in Need-USA, a papal agency, launches major campaign to support besieged Christians in Iraq and Syria.
NEW YORK—Responding to what Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic
leader Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako has called “a human catastrophe and the
risk of a real genocide,” Aid to the Church in Need-USA (ACNUSA) has launched a
major campaign to provide humanitarian aid to the Christian community in Iraq
that has been terrorized by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
(ISIS) for more than six weeks.
ACNUSA has made two initial grants, $135,000 for emergency aid
for Iraq’s Christian refugees and $186,000 in support of the Christian
community in Syria. There, continued fighting between the regime and the
opposition, the devastation caused by the civil war to-date, and targeted
attacks are causing enormous suffering to local Christians.
“Both countries are threatened with the extinction of ancient Christian communities,”
said George Marlin, Chairman of the Board of ACNUSA. “Both Churches and
governments in the West must do their utmost to prevent what has become a
tragedy of historic proportions,” he added.
Marlin urges the West to intervene to stop the atrocities of
ISIS in Iraq, which have been marked by “cruelties beyond words.” There have
been reports of beheadings and crucifixions of Christians and other minorities.
Water, food, emergency supplies and medicine “are the first order of the day,”
he said, but in the long term a lasting solution must be found that guarantees
Christians’ safe haven in both Syria and Iraq.
In the wake of Sunni-Shiite clashes in Iraq and the rise in
Islamic extremism, the Iraqi Christian population has dwindled to some 150,000
from a high of more than a million. The Syrian conflict has sparked the exodus
of almost a third of the country’s Christian population of 1.8 million, the majority
of whom are currently stranded in Lebanon. In addition, at least several
hundred thousand Christians are displaced within Syria itself.
ISIS forces—which overran Iraq’s largest city of Mosul in
early June—have also taken control of the town of Qaraqosh and surrounding
villages, the country’s largest Christian enclave. Its 100,000 residents fled
“with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” reported Chaldean Patriarch
Louis Sako of Baghdad, who spoke in terms of “an exodus, a real via crucis.” The fate of Mosul’s Christian community—who
were given a choice by ISIS to convert, pay a tax levied on non-Muslims, simply
leave or die—left these latest refugees with no illusions. Only a handful of
Christians remain in Mosul; most of the community has fled, robbed of their
homes, all their possessions and their identity papers.
The bulk of the Christian refugees are making their way to
Kurdish territory, where Church communities have a measure of safety. But an
already overburdened local Church infrastructure will make life difficult for
newcomers in Kurdistan, while the existing Kurdistan Christian community of
some 100,000 is afraid ISIS forces may also attack that territory.
In Syria, ACNUSA will be supporting the Archdiocese of Homs,
Hama and Yabroud and provide emergency relief for families in the country’s
famous “Valley of the Christians,” which has seen some of the most intense
fighting of the Syrian civil war.
“Not only is the rich
Christian patrimony of these countries at stake,” said Marlin; “Christians play
a vital role in Muslim societies as a moderating force, playing an
indispensable role in mediating between warring factions and maintaining
relations with the international community.”
The commitment of the Christians in the Middle East to
“education and democratic values across the board” makes them peace-builders,
he said—and that is a “vital interest for the West.”
In response to these crises ACNUSA has pledged $1M to the persecuted
and suffering Church in the region —a pledge its donors are asked to meet.
To support the $1M ACNUSA campaign on
behalf of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, please visit www.churchinneed.org/helpIraqandSyria or call (800) 628-6333.
For more information:
Aid to the Church in Need-USA
Tel: 917 608 1989