A thought provoking reflection on the death of American photo journalist James Foley from a contributor on social media going by the name Hayssam.
May James Foley, and all those who have lost their lives, rest in peace.
"Today the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group ISIL," Obama said"
Really Mr. President? Tens of thousands of Syrians were killed by those very same thugs, entire neighborhoods in major Syrian cities were transformed to rubble, the country's infrastructure devastated by none other than those championed by your administration and financed by US GCC clients... and all of a sudden "the entire world" is appalled just because ONE man was slaughtered? Allow me borrow this section from Shakespeare substituting "Syrian" for "Jew" and "American" for Christian":
"Hath not a Syrian eyes? Hath not a Syrian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as an American is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?"
The Huffington Post reports: President Barack Obama spoke Wednesday on the execution of American journalist James Foley at the hands of Islamic State militants, warning the group that they have "no place in the 21st century."
"Today the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group ISIL," Obama said in a statement from Martha's Vineyard, where he is on vacation. "James was taken
from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world."Full article here.
Levant TV reports: Father Shafik Abou Zayd of Oxford University speaks to us commenting on the Lebanese Maronite Patriarch’s visit to Iraq’s Erbil.
Father Shafik of the Melkite Church in London says the one-of-a-kind visit to iraq is liaised with the Vatican. Lebanon remains strong in the face of Islamist extremism in the region.
Extract from a speech of welcome given by Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch John X to Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ephrem II at the Monastery of Saint George al-Homeyra in Homs diocese via the Russian Orthodox news outlet, Pravmir.
"In this land, Christianity had its infancy and from here the spark of Christian love went out to Rome and all the corners of the earth. This land gave us Ignatius of Antioch, who was bound in the shackles of this present age just as many of us are shackled in these circumstances. However, these shackles did not restrain the determination of faith. These are the same chains and shackles that will shatter before Syria and her steadfastness, the steadfastness of her leaders, her army and her people. Through the work of her good children, Syria shall rise up and shake off the ruin that has come to us from abroad. She herself will bury in her soil all those who permit themselves to tamper with the eternal monuments of her life. We have said and we will continuously say: our salvation is in dialogue and in the political solution, in word and deed. To the outside world we cry out from here in this Valley: look honestly at what is happening in Syria and Iraq, particularly in Mosul, and in every place that has falsely and deceitfully taken up the mantle of “Springtime”. Look honestly at the tragedy of Palestine. Look at Lebanon, which is paying a high price. We have known this land as the birthplace of the alphabet, which is an image of the need to encounter the other. We have not known her to be a hotbed for takfirism, terrorism and kidnapping. We in this Middle East are fed up with language of solidarity and wishful thinking on the part of those who are entrusted with decision and action. We have had enough of slogans while our bishops Youhanna and Paul, our priests and our people are being kidnapped while the world watches. The smile of our children is more precious than the falsehood of the world’s slogans. The soil of this land where we were born, live and die is our treasure, our well-being, and our vessel for passage into true life."
I lift up my prayer in your name to the Mother of Light, Our Lady the Virgin. I lift it up with the candles of the Umm al-Zunnar Church and with all the refugees who have been separated from their families and their people by the present circumstances."
Full speech here.
The Russian Orthodox media outlet Pravmir reports
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi [Rai] traveled on Wednesday to the Iraqi region of Kurdistan at the head of a delegation of patriarchs, in a show of support to the persecuted Christians.
Al-Rahi was accompanied by Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Youssef III Younan and Ignatius Aphrem II, the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church.
“We are heading to Erbil as a first step in the implementation of the statement issued by the patriarchs in their last meeting,” said al-Rahi at Rafik Hariri International Airport.
“The first and essential clause in the statement is our support for Christians who have left their houses because of the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations,” he added.
The clergymen are scheduled to meet with Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the Head of the Chaldean Catholic Church Louis Raphael I Sako upon their arrival to Erbil.
Islamic State militants in Iraq have been waging a campaign against minorities in Iraq, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.
Pope Francis called Monday for collective action through the United Nations to “stop unjust aggression” in Iraq.
Last week as thousands from Iraq’s Yazidi and Christian minorities fled attacks by IS jihadists, Francis made a plea to the U.N. to do all it could to stop the violence.
The Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations, Silvano Tomasi, had voiced support days earlier for U.S. air strikes, in a rare exception to papal policy promoting peaceful conflict resolution.
The delegation of Patriarchs was accompanied by a member of the Islamic-Christian Dialogue Committee Harith Al-Shihab, Chairman of Caritas Lebanon Father Paul Karam, Monsignor Joseph Pipe, Director of the Centre for Catholic Media and others.
From the Kurdish media network Rudaw: On a hidden phone and in secret phone calls, a Yezidi girl held with 200 others as war booty by Islamic State (IS/ISIS) militants near Mosul painted
a tragic picture of girls being singled out daily as sex slaves, and some committing suicide. Full article here.
The United States has launched dozens of air strikes in Iraq since early August to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces pushing back IS militants in the north. Original article here.
PRESS RELEASE– On 7 August 2014, at the heart of a Middle East soaked in blood, the Patriarchs of the East published a press release condemning conflicts and violence which overwhelm
the entire region, and most particularly the persecution of innocents and Christians. The religious fundamentalism, and those who feed it through financing its armed movements, affecting the
balance and stability in the region, is unequivocally denounced. The Patriarchs therefore send forth an urgency plea to the international community. Arabic original
Following a brotherly invitation by His Beatitude and Eminence Cardinal Bishara Butros al Rai, Patriarch of Antioch and of the whole East for Maronites, Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs of Eastern
Churches convened at the Patriarchal Palace of Dymane, on 7 August 2014. Among the attendants :
The Church leaders expressed their awe at the unprecedented, terrific incidents taking place in the area, by wars and internal fighting, in Iraq and in Syria, by the religious fundamentalism which erodes the social fabric and its unity in our countries, by the emergence of
fundamentalist armed groups and Takfiris who kill, murder, shatter and violate the sacred nature of
the churches, scorching their heritage and manuscripts, and by foreign mercenaries who fight at the side of those who assault the citizens and their dignity. The prelates feel deeply hurt by
the tragedies affecting their Palestinian brethren in Gaza in the wake of
arbitrary air strikes by Israel, void of all human considerations, targeting innocents, violating all legal principles. They are also anguished at the bloody incidents taking place at Ersal in
Lebanon where foreign terrorist groups have assaulted the Lebanese army and the internal security forces, killing several soldiers and kidnapping many others. The armed groups have beleaguered
the inhabitants of the town, using them as human shields, ordering them to evacuate their homes.
After having assessed these horror events from all sides, and having considered the dangers which threaten all inhabitants of the region without exception, taking a cover of sectarianism never known before in history, and the effects which these conflicts may leave on the people living in the region, including their children the Christians who live in the midst of these turmoils, and believing in the role of the State in protecting these persons and their properties, the situation reaching a point where these persons are obliged to relinquish the land of their fathers and ancestors, without any valid reason, they published at the conclusion of their meeting the following statement :
We call upon all regimes and countries which support, arm or finance,
directly or indirectly, terrorist groups to stop what they are doing. Religious extremism, no matter where it comes from, will hurt any person who takes it upon himself and affects negatively
the one who does not counteract it.
The forced eviction of Christians from their homes, the seizure of their properties, the killing of unarmed civilians, the assaults on religious minorities, churches and worshiping places in Mossul, Sadad, Maaloula, Kassab and elsewhere is certainly a crime against humanity, a violation of human rights and humanitarian international law. The Attorney of the International Court of Justice should launch a counter investigation in order to bring citizens back to their homes, to restore their belongings and rights.
Would we accept that the progress in relations between Christianity and Islam be exposed to such regression which, through eliminating all positive elements, threatens to draw us generations backward ?
At the end of this statement-appeal, the Patriarchs of Eastern Churches declare that:
That’s why the Patriarchs insist on:
They also approach their children spread all over the five continents of the world to show solidarity with their brethren of this East in suffering, to help them materially, spiritually and morally, to enable them to hold on to their country in a a firm Christian hope, and to carry on their mission, by announcing the Gospel of brotherhood, justice and peace which the Lord – Man and World Saviour – has entrusted them with, who repeats in these difficult times “ Do not be afraid little flock … In this world you will have trouble. But take heart ! I have overcome the world.” (Luke 12:32 ; Jn 16:33)
We pray together for the repose of the soul of those who were killed during these tragic events, for the consolation of their parents, for the healing of the wounded. We pray also that security and peace prevail in the world, and in particular in our beloved countries, imploring the Lord to inspire leaders and persons of good will, so that they could jointly put an end to this dark and dreary juncture of our history, in order for our region to troubled region to restore its life and stability.
(1) Takfiris “(from the Arabic word Takfir wal Hijra, Anathema and Exile, a group founded in 1971) are Islamist extremists, who hold on to a violent ideology. The term “takfiri” means literally “excommunication”. The takfiris consider Muslims who do not share them their point of view as apostates, therefore “legal targets” for their attacks.
Article from the Syrian news agency SANA
Homs, SANA-Patriarch John X Yazigi of Antioch and All The East for Rome Orthodox called for boosting national unity and fraternity among the Syrians, Muslims and Christians, in the face of conspiracies, showing confidence that Syria will remain the land of peace and amity.
Leading a mass at Saint Panteleimon in Marmarita, Homs on Sunday, Patriarch Yazigi hoped peace would return to Syria and its lands is cleaned off terrorism, affirming that this requires all Syrians to assume their national duties.
For his part, Bishop Elia Toma of Wadi al-Nadara [Wadi al Nasara - The Valley of the Christians] said the visit of Patriarch Yazigi is exceptional, particularly because it coincides with the
first annual anniversary of the martyrdom of 13 citizens in the town,
considering the visit will alleviate the wounds of their families. Original article here.
After three years of western backed destruction by Islamist rebels the Christian districts of Homs old city in Syria were declared liberated in early May. The district had been home to 80,000 Christians of which all but a handful fled or were forced to leave by armed rebels who systematically looted and destroyed the district. All the churches in the district were left in partial or total ruin. Most important among them was the Syriac Orthodox Church of Um al Zinnar (St. Mary’s Shrine of the Belt) which is built upon an ancient crypt cave with signs of Christian worship dating back to 59 A.D. The Church housed a much treasured relic reputed to be a belt or girdle that had belonged to the Virgin Mary. Luckily this object had been removed, 3 years ago from the church and taken to a secret place of safe keeping and so unlike many of the ancient treasures that were looted this important symbol of the old city’s ancient Christian faith remained secure. On Thursday the 15th of August for the occasion of the Dormition (Assumption of The Virgin Mary) the relic returned in procession to its home church. Carried by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and accompanied by the governor of Homs province there was a large crowd in attendance to celebrate the occasion.
Article by Patrick Cockburn in the British newspaper The Independent
How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them."
The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.
In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as "spoils of war". Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.
Iran's Press TV reports: The secretary general of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, says serious doubts exist about the West’s real intentions in confronting the ISIL Takfiri militants. Nasrallah said ISIL is creating a state of terror in the region and is sacrificing followers of all faiths for their evil cause. He stated that the US only intervened against them when its interests were threatened.
There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa'ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar's words, saying that they constituted "a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed".
He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: "Such things simply do not happen spontaneously." This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.
Dearlove's explosive revelation about the prediction of a day of reckoning for the Shia by Prince Bandar, and the former head of MI6's view that Saudi Arabia is involved in the Isis-led Sunni rebellion, has attracted surprisingly little attention. Coverage of Dearlove's speech focused instead on his main theme that the threat from Isis to the West is being exaggerated because, unlike Bin Laden's al-Qa'ida, it is absorbed in a new conflict that "is essentially Muslim on Muslim". Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by Isis are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated
Armenian news outlet Asbarez reports: Turkey—A senior commander of the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) has told the Washington Post that Turkey’s support was instrumental in the success of his organization, which now controls great swathes of Syria and Iraq.
In an interview with the Washington Post on Aug. 12, the 27-year-old commander identifying himself as Abu Yusef explained that the Islamic State received most of its supplies from Turkey and had many of its fighters from Syria treated at Turkish hospitals. Full article here.
and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa'ida and Isis is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.
The forecast by Prince Bandar, who was at the heart of Saudi security policy for more than three decades, that the 100 million Shia in the Middle East face disaster at the hands of the Sunni majority, will convince many Shia that they are the victims of a Saudi-led campaign to crush them. "The Shia in general are getting very frightened after what happened in northern Iraq," said an Iraqi commentator, who did not want his name published. Shia see the threat as not only military but stemming from the expanded influence over mainstream Sunni Islam of Wahhabism, the puritanical and intolerant version of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia that condemns Shia and other Islamic sects as non-Muslim apostates and polytheists.
Dearlove says that he has no inside knowledge obtained since he retired as head of MI6 10 years ago to become Master of Pembroke College in Cambridge. But, drawing on past experience, he sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes. First, they are convinced that there "can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam's holiest shrines". But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be "deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom".
Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's Isis. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.
"The position of the American president Obama only to give military assistance to protect Erbil is disappointing. The talks about dividing Iraq are threatening. The Americans are not up to a
rapid solution to give hope specifically as they are not going to attack the ISIS in Mosul and in the Nineveh Plain. The confirmation that this terrible situation will continue until the Iraqi
Security Forces will fight along with Peshmerga against the ISIS militants is very depressing. The President of the Kurdistan Region said that the Kurdish troops are fighting with a terrorist
State and not minor groups! While the country is under fire, the politicians in Baghdad are fighting for power." Full statement here.
The difference between al-Qa'ida and Isis can be overstated: when Bin Laden was killed by United States forces in 2011, al-Baghdadi released a statement eulogising him, and Isis pledged to launch 100 attacks in revenge for his death.
But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa'ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar's approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.
He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence "literally shouting at me across his office: '9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.'" In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.
Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia "militancy" is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups." She said that, in so far as Saudi Arabia
Reuters reports: The Islamic State militant group has executed 700 members of a tribe it has been battling in eastern Syria during the past two weeks, the majority of them civilians. Full article here.
did act against al-Qa'ida, it was as a domestic threat and not because of its activities abroad. This policy may now be changing with the dismissal of Prince Bandar as head of intelligence this year. But the change is very recent, still ambivalent and may be too late: it was only last week that a Saudi prince said he would no longer fund a satellite television station notorious for its anti-Shia bias based in Egypt.
The problem for the Saudis is that their attempts since Bandar lost his job to create an anti-Maliki and anti-Assad Sunni constituency which is simultaneously against al-Qa'ida and its clones have failed.
By seeking to weaken Maliki and Assad in the interest of a more moderate Sunni faction, Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of Isis which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, as happened previously in its Syrian capital Raqqa, potential critics and opponents are disarmed, forced to swear allegiance to the new caliphate and killed if they resist.
WCA (World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) reports: here.s. Note: The Tur Abdin region of Turkey along the Syrian border is an ancient heartland of Syriac Christians. Report
The West may have to pay a price for its alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, which have always found Sunni jihadism more attractive than democracy. A striking example of double standards by the western powers was the Saudi-backed suppression of peaceful democratic protests by the Shia majority in Bahrain in March 2011. Some 1,500 Saudi troops were sent across the causeway to the island kingdom as the demonstrations were ended with great brutality and Shia mosques and shrines were destroyed.
An alibi used by the US and Britain is that the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family in Bahrain is pursuing dialogue and reform. But this excuse looked thin last week as Bahrain expelled a top US diplomat, the assistant secretary of state for human rights Tom Malinowksi, for meeting leaders of the main Shia opposition party al-Wifaq. Mr Malinowski tweeted that the Bahrain government's action was "not about me but about undermining dialogue".
Western powers and their regional allies have largely escaped criticism for their role in reigniting the war in Iraq. Publicly and privately, they have blamed the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for persecuting and marginalising the Sunni minority, so provoking them into supporting the Isis-led revolt. There is much truth in this, but it is by no means the whole story. Maliki did enough to enrage the Sunni, partly because he wanted to frighten Shia voters into supporting him in the 30 April election by claiming to be the Shia community's protector against Sunni counter-revolution.
But for all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki's failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. "I guess they just didn't believe us and were fixated on getting rid of [President Bashar al-] Assad," said an Iraqi leader in Baghdad last week.
Of course, US and British politicians and diplomats would argue that they were in no position to bring an end to the Syrian conflict. But this is misleading. By insisting that peace negotiations must be about the departure of Assad from power, something that was never going to happen since Assad held most of the cities in the country and his troops were advancing, the US and Britain made sure the war would continue.
The chief beneficiary is Isis which over the last two weeks has been mopping up the last opposition to its rule in eastern Syria. The Kurds in the north and the official al-Qa'ida representative, Jabhat al-Nusra, are faltering under the impact of Isis forces high in morale and using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army. It is also, without the rest of the world taking notice, taking over many of the Syrian oil wells that it did not already control.
Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein's monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open. As Kurdish-held border crossings fall to Isis, Turkey will find it has a new neighbour of extraordinary violence, and one deeply ungrateful for past favours from the Turkish intelligence service.
As for Saudi Arabia, it may come to regret its support for the Sunni revolts in Syria and Iraq as jihadi social media begins to speak of the House of Saud as its next target. It is the unnamed head of Saudi General Intelligence quoted by Dearlove after 9/11 who is turning out to have analysed the potential threat to Saudi Arabia correctly and not Prince Bandar, which may explain why the latter was sacked earlier this year.
Nor is this the only point on which Prince Bandar was dangerously mistaken. The rise of Isis is bad news for the Shia of Iraq but it is worse news for the Sunni whose leadership has been ceded to a pathologically bloodthirsty and intolerant movement, a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, which has no aim but war without end.
The Sunni caliphate rules a large, impoverished and isolated area from which people are fleeing. Several million Sunni in and around Baghdad are vulnerable to attack and 255 Sunni prisoners have already been massacred. In the long term, Isis cannot win, but its mix of fanaticism and good organisation makes it difficult to dislodge.
"God help the Shia," said Prince Bandar, but, partly thanks to him, the shattered Sunni communities of Iraq and Syria may need divine help even more than the Shia. Original article here.
Wahhabism is an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam. It is a religious movement among fundamentalist believers, which originates in Saudi Arabia and promotes a Takfiri mentality which believes that all those including fellow Muslims who do not follow their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam are to be considered as kafir (infidel)
Above the political leaders of NATO member states, America, France and the United Kingdom with the King of Saudi Arabia, a strong regional GCC/Gulf ally and major arms purchaser from the West. Saudi Arabia, a Wahhabi state, arms and funds Takfiri fighters in Syria and Iraq.
Mr. Mark Arabo a Chaldean Catholic and prominent Californian businessman in a recent interview with CNN, has disturbingly promoted the export of Iraqi Christians from their native homeland under the pretext of concern. His views are contrary to the view point of his own Chaldean Church Patriarch Raphael Louis Sako who has expressly said that Mosul Christians should be able to stay in Iraq, not forced into exile.
It is worrying that under such a pretext this American businessman is promoting an idea that will obliterate one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. In his CNN interview Mr. Arabo called on the international community to follow France's lead and offer the Christians of Iraq asylum but seems oblivious to the fact that an earlier French offer of asylum for Syrian Christians afflicted by similar western backed rebels in Syria met with the condemnation of H.E. Cardinal al Rai the, Beirut based, Maronite Catholic Patriarch who denounced such offers of asylum for Christians believing it is part of a sinister geo-political plot to empty the entire region of its religious minorities for economic and political interest.
On June 20th last Mr Arabo in an interview with KPBS, a media outlet of San Diego University, made the disturbing comment “We're going to set up meetings with the State Department and from the beginning we've been very clear that we're hoping NATO and the U.N. come together to make sure they facilitate a mass exodus of Christians in Iraq.” Such misguided sentiments at best amount to treating an illness rather than finding a cure for the disease. While unacceptable it is understandable that this approach would be taken by a US citizen aligned to the American establishment because any cure for the disease of terror that afflicts the region would necessitate dealing with and sanctioning American regional allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar both of whom have long promoted sectarianism and from whose countries flow the ideology and funding that fuel the current destruction and terrorisation of the entire Iraqi community in the same way as it has already done in Syria.
Abouna.org the Jordanian based Catholic media out let reports: "The families that have fled Mosul "must be able to stay in our homeland, Iraq". Facilitating their exile through special visas is not the real solution, rather a political effort is needed that will "allow us all to remain in this nation that we love and to live in safety, equality and dignity with everyone"........The Patriarch thanked Paris.... "for their generous proposal", "it honors us and honors the countries that make it", but he stresses that "if we leave our homeland we will destroy the memory of our ancient history". Rather than a temporary, humanitarian solution to the emergency, a "political solution" is what is needed......"if France and other countries really want to help, [they should do so] encouraging these families to stay by sending them emergency aid to ease their pain and help the construction of housing in the cities where they can live in security". Full article here.
Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper reports:
The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and the Levant has strongly criticized France's offer to grant Iraqi Christians political asylum, describing the move as an attempt to empty the region from
the adepts of Christ.
The church charged that Muslim extremists persecuting Christians were being supported logistically and militarily by states through undeclared alliances. Full article here.
International Business Times reported on June 19, 2014
"As the American government is contemplating on whether or not to launch an airstrike on ISIS that is threatening to destroy Iraq, reports have now surfaced that way back in 2012, the US Army had trained members of the same terrorist group in Jordan. Full article here".
Following on from the impassioned speech given in the Iraqi Parliament by Vian Dakhil MP, a member of the ethno-religious Yazidi community, in which she stated that Yazidi “women and children had been taken as slaves and sold in the slave market” further confirmation, has immerged from Ms. Christina Patto, vice president of Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq, who reported to the Assyrian news outlet Ankawa.com that 100 families in Nineveh, while trying to escape, were captured by ISIS terrorists at Tel Afar airport and the women and girls were taken to be raped and sold as slaves. The news outlet coptstoday.com also published a report on the matter citing the Iraqi Red Crescent as confirming same.
International Business Times reported on June 19, 2014
"As the American government is contemplating on whether or not to launch an airstrike on ISIS that is threatening to destroy Iraq, reports have now surfaced that way back in 2012, the US Army had trained members of the same terrorist group in Jordan. Full article here".
Statment from the World Council of Arameans
Last night, two Aramean children and a mother were killed as a result of a shameless attack by ISIS terrorists against Baghdeda (Qaraqosh) in North Iraq. At the same time, in the middle of the night, more than 40,000 Aramean families – comprising at least 200.000 human beings – fearfully fled their ancestral homes, towns and villages in the Nineveh region. Another unprecedented humanitarian disaster is now unfolding in Iraq.
Most recently, thousands of Aramean families had already escaped the Mosul region to the Nineveh province, after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists rampaged the area. The Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of St. Matthew, including its fourth-century Monastery of Mor Matay, and other local dioceses have been closed.
The Nineveh plains are now emptied from its native Christians, who belong to the Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Chaldean and Assyrian (Nestorian) churches in the region. This is the second
region that has been emptied from its Aramean population for the first time in its millennia-old history. Thus, an ancient civilization, cultural heritage and population have been destroyed and
erased from Iraq’s future.
The majority, if not all, of the local Muslim population apparently did not fear their lives to abandon their homes, while the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters suddenly retreated. The withdrawal of the Kurds is striking, particularly in light of a similar situation that took place a few days ago where thousands of Yezidi men, women and children were abandoned and sacrificed to ISIS by the Peshmerga.
All the developments that have been taking place in Syria and Iraq, once again reveal that there is a clear agenda to divide Iraq into three portions: a Shiite, Sunni (ISIS-controlled) and Kurdish part, whereas defenseless and vulnerable minorities like the Aramean Christians and Yezidis are forced out of their ancient homeland.
The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) condemns in the strongest possible terms this latest ISIS invasion. This is nothing short of genocide and ethnic cleansing. A new humanitarian disaster is unfolding and the international community simply does not seem to care.
The WCA President, Johny Messo, expressed his deep concerns as follows: “How many more crimes against humanity does the world wants to see before it finally speaks up? Where are the conscience and the sense of responsibility of the world leaders? Where are the principles of ethics and objective journalism by the mainstream media? We urgently call upon the international community, spearheaded by the United Nations, the European Union, Council of Europe, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, to act immediately and without further delay. Not to speak is to speak and not to act is to act!”
Mr. Messo further explained: “Yesterday we arrived to Lebanon to discuss the deteriorating situation of our people in Iraq and Syria with the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch and today we would join His Holiness and the Patriarchs of the other native churches in the Middle East at a press conference this afternoon where a joint declaration would be issued. This morning, however, we were deeply shocked when His Holiness broke the news to us. We are all very troubled by this news.”
Before the USA and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003, the Aramean Christian population consisted of 1,4 million souls. Today, less than 400,000 Arameans have remained in their homeland. With the latest developments taking place, the future of this ancient indigenous population of Iraq is at the brink of extinction. In Syria, the same developments have been taking place. Similar attempts of genocide and ethnic cleansing were already successfully accomplished in Turkey in the last century, which saw its numerous native Armenian, Greek and Aramean populations dwindle to less than 100,000.
In all these cases, the foreign policies of Western countries have turned out to be utterly destructive to the many hundreds of thousands of native Aramean Christians who experienced persecutions, beheadings, crucifixion, kidnappings, expulsions and more. Simultaneously, Western governments and mainstream media have remained utterly silent and ignored the cries for help by the Arameans. Original statement here.
While Pope Francis called on the “international community to take initiatives to put an end to the humanitarian drama underway, to take steps to protect those involved and threatened by
violence and to ensure the necessary aid for so many displaced people whose fate depends on the solidarity of others” there can be little point now at this late stage,
the damage is already done and the Vatican was long been aware of the situation.
Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, the leader of one of the world's oldest Christian communities, has been at the Vatican pleading for the future of
his community in a meeting with the French prelate Mamberti.
Vatican City, July 19 – The seat of the Syrian Catholic Archeparchy of Mosul in Iraq has been burned down by members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and the situation for Iraqi Christians has become dramatic, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan told Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti on Saturday. The Islamist militants have threatened to kill Christians unless they convert to Islam. “It’s terrible. This is shameful for the international community,” the patriarch said. Via agi news agency.
Full text of Patriarch's appeal in Arabic here
The French Moroccan prelate responsible for Vatican relations with foreign states, Dominique Mamberti, seen here in 2007 dining with Tony Blair
one of the principle authors of Iraq’s destruction.
Video via Eretz Zen You Tube Channel
ISIS massacre of Yazidis in Sinjar
See also: Another Minority being Destroyed
Article from the Vatican’s Pontifical Missions news service, Fides
"The truce which has begun is a good thing, but it will not help if the conditions in Gaza remain those of a desperate land under siege, where only fear and frustration that feed hatred can grow.
It almost seems that it points at making Gaza a factory of desperate people, designed to easily turn into extremists ready for anything". The Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, Fouad Twal in a conversation with Fides Agency, invites us to reflect on the insufficient long-term temporary suspension of military actions over which Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement. According to the Patriarch the structural conditions that feed blind hatred, starting from the embargo must be removed: "Even the tunnels built in Gaza", highlights His Beatitude Twal "are a product of the embargo in their own way: if you put an end to this siege, if you open up the streets and allow freedom of movement of people and goods, if you allow free fishing in the sea in front of Gaza, then everything will be able to move on the surface and no one will need to dig underground tunnels to pass".
According to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the perverse and blind desire to annihilate the enemy is turning the civilian population of Gaza in a sacrificial victim: "Just look at the names of the victims: 70 percent", noted His Beatitude "are women and children: it also suggests that, among the many tunnels, Hamas did not think of building underground shelters for the people".
With regard to international reactions, the Patriarch also sends an important message to those who continue to express verbal statements of solidarity with the suffering Christians and peoples of the Middle East: "Many letters from many friends who live in other countries and continents arrive. We thank you, but perhaps there is too little compassion and practical help. I went to visit the injured from Gaza who were welcomed in the French Hospital, and I was impressed. Even their families are in need of everything. We do what we can with Caritas and the resources of the Patriarchate, but we get little concrete and effective support from the outside. Messages and statements we read are not enough to say: we are with you". Original article here.
Source: al-Jadeed TV (Lebanon) via Eretz Zen You Tube Channel
Lebanese Foreign Minister, Jebran Bassil, himself a Christian, gave a speech during a meeting for the Palestine Committee of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Tehran. He pointed out that the
developments in the Gaza Strip, the Iraqi city of Mosul, and the Lebanese northeastern border town
of Arsal are the same. Arsal had come under an attack by militants from ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) last weekend, and the Lebanese Army is still engaged in a battle against
He stated that the Jewish state of Israel and the Islamic State of ISIL share common principles such as killing in the name of religion, forcibly displacing people in the name of the project of their state, and eliminating the ‘Other’ in the name of monolithism. He also stated that this is done with Western support, while the Middle East disintegrates and pluralism disappears.
Recent videos emerging from different parts of Syria and Iraq where ISIL operates have shown how the indigenous population of these areas is being driven out and replaced by foreign people coming from all over the world, where these new "citizens" already follow the Wahhabi ideology of ISIL. The same has been happening in Israel for a long time, where the native Palestinian population was and is still being driven out to be replaced by foreign people coming from all over the world because they happen to be "Jewish" and follow the same Zionist ideology of Israel.
American President Barak Obama has sought a further $500 million to fund so called “moderate” rebels in Syria. Below: Screen capture from a video showing five men accused of adultery being executed recently by "moderate", non-ISIS, non-Jabhat al-Nusra, "rebels" in East Ghouta, Damascus. Warning graphic video here.
Article from the American news outlet Global Post
Extract: LALISH, Iraq — Sunday afternoon, they began to arrive.
Just hours after Al Qaeda-inspired extremists, known as the Islamic State, invaded their hometown Sinjar in northern Iraq, a steady flow of newly displaced families poured into the holy city of Lalish.
Sinjar is a predominantly Yazidi town which had been under Kurdish control since the Iraqi army fled in June. The semi-autonomous Kurdish territory in Iraq now shares a border with the self-declared caliphate under Islamic State control.
Yazidis, who have been persecuted for centuries, adhere to a pre-Islamic faith linked to Zoroastrianism. Their religion is shrouded in mystery, but most Muslims consider them “devil worshippers.”
On Sunday, one man sat in the courtyard of a temple in Lalish, his face expressing anguish. He was unable to speak. The man next to him explained:
“They captured his whole family,” he said. “They made his wife and daughters cover their hair and faces. Then they made them renounce their religion and swear allegiance to Mohammed. After that, they killed them all.”
The man had been away from his home at the time of the attack. When he tried to return, he was informed of the executions by his companion who dragged him from the scene as thousands fled to the homes of relatives or to the temple, which is now sheltering thousands.
The United Nations says 200,000 civilians, most of them Yazidis, have fled Sinjar and warned of a burgeoning "humanitarian tragedy." While the majority of Sinjar’s population is Yazidi, there are also some Arabs and Assyrian families.
The Islamic State (IS) began shelling Sinjar and several surrounding villages in the early hours of Sunday. By midday they had entered the city. Many of the men from Sinjar stayed to fight, while locals say the Kurdish peshmerga forces, who had been protecting the city, fled.
An estimated 600,000 Yazidis remain in
Sabrina’s Story: At 107 years of age Sabrina Khalaf is one of Syria’s oldest refugees and also comes from one of the regions rarest and oldest ethno-religious minorities, the Kurdish speaking Yazidi people. Sabria’s extended family, two remaining daughters and many offspring, have lived in Germany for years. Her son had remained behind in Syria to care for her but as the conflict raged, Sabria had to leave home. She took to the road, starting an uncertain journey, hoping to reach her daughters in Germany. Turkey was her first stop and after months of living in migrant ghettos in Istanbul, Sabria’s son made arrangements with a smuggler for their delivery to Italy, across the Mediterranean Sea. They travelled with some 90 immigrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Africa. The smuggler divided them and kept the group in three locked rooms at the bottom of the boat. Sabria and her son were in the room where fuel tanks were kept. They travelled for three days in rough seas. Water entered the room. Fuel splashed everywhere. “I was covered by fuel. I lost consciousness,” Sabria, 107, recalled. The boat never made it to Italy. It got stuck in a storm near Athens. An Afghan refugee, who was in the same room with Sabria, broke the door and escaped, forcing the captain to call for help. Two Greek Coast Guard boats arrived and rescued the stranded refugees. Seven months after starting out and after another long wait, sharing a squalid flat in Athens, with other refugees, Sabrina and her son finally got the clearance to be reunited with their family in Germany and arrived there on the 17th of March 2014.
Iraq. Lalish, which houses the tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, the main figure of the Yazidi faith, is normally a place of pilgrimage and worship. Today, it became a camp for internally displaced people. Full article here.
"As the conflict continues in Iraq, the UN has recently warned of its impact on religious minorities. The BBC's Reda El Mawy has been to meet some of them. He started by visiting Lalish, at the heart of the ancient Yazidi faith that combines Nature Worship, Christianity and Islam amongst other beliefs. He then travelled to Bashiqah home to many Iraqi Christians."
Article from Russian Orthodox Church Department for External Church Relations
At the invitation of St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation and the Center of National Glory, orphaned children from war-stricken Syria have come to Russia for holidays. About a hundred pupils, accompanied by their teachers, from the Orthodox orphanages at the monasteries of the Orthodox Church of Antioch, located in Saidnaya, Maaloula, Damascus, and the Valley of Christians, and from boarding schools for children of deceased servicemen, will spend two weeks in a children’s health camp in the Moscow Region.
With the blessing of His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East, Archimandrite Yousef Yacoub, rector of the Church of the Holy Mother of God in Latakia, accompanies the children. Full article here.
Article via Notes on Arab Orthodoxy
The fierce position taken by Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East John X regarding Western intervention in Syria is justified, especially in light of information coming from
Northern Syria regarding the attempt of armed Islamist units belonging to the Syrian opposition to isolate the city of Mhardeh, hometown of Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim of thrice-blessed memory,
and the town of Suqailabiyeh, both located in the Hama countryside near the entrance to the Alawite Mountains.
Mhardeh and Suqailabiyeh constitute one of the largest agglomerations of Greek Orthodox Christians in Syria, with an estimated combined population of 100 thousand people. They contain a dozen churches as well as civil and ecclesiastical economic, social and educational institutions.
Information from clergymen coming from Mhardeh indicates a state of alert and a general mobilization of the people of the two towns following reports from the Hama countryside about the advance of Islamist forces toward the vicinity of the two cities and clashes with the lines of defense and barricades set up by residence in order to defend their existence and prevent a repeat of the expulsions and acts of revenge that happened in Mosul. The information confirms that residents were able to repel the attackers who resorted to rocket and artillery strikes on the two cities, where alarms were sounded.
Sources informed about what is happening confirmed that the Orthodox Patriarchate is moving toward escalating its positions in the face of what is happening and that it will not accept for the crimes of Mosul to be repeated in Mhardeh or any other place. It will not keep silent about this matter and any silence regarding the unprecedented religious cleansing against Christians is highly suspicious. Original article here.