CLICK HERE for St Robert of Newminster Newsletter 10th August 2014
The Catholic Bishop’s England and Wales have asked to to pray especially today for the Christians in Iraq and other persecuted minorities.
URGENT MESSAGE FROM CHALDEAN PATRIARCH
Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, Louis-Raphael I Sako, on several urgent aspects and the grave risk in which Iraqi Christians and other refugees still find themselves.
+Louis Raphael Sako
Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon
President of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Iraq
Baghdad – Iraq
10 August 2014
Death and sickness are taking hold of the children and elderly people among the thousands of refugee families spread over the Kurdistan Region who lost everything in the recent tragic developments while the ISIS Militants are still advancing and the humanitarian aid is insufficient.
There are seventy thousand displaced Christians in Ankawa [Erbil] along with the other minorities in this city that has a population of more than twenty-five thousand Christians. The families who found shelter inside the churches or schools are in a rather good condition while those who are still sleeping in the streets and public parks are in a deplorable situation…
In Dohuk, the number of Christian refugees’ amount to more than 60.000 and their situation is worse than those in Erbil. There are also families who found shelters in Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah, as well as some have arrived as far as in the capital city of Baghdad.
While the humanitarian needs are escalating: housing, food, water, medicine and funds, the lack of international coordination is slowing and limiting the realization of an effective assistance to these thousands awaiting immediate support. The Churches are offering everything within their capacity.
To summarize the situation of the Christian villages around Mosul up to the borders of Kurdistan Region: the churches are deserted and desecrated; five bishops are out of their bishoprics, the priests and nuns left their missions and institutions leaving everything behind, the families have fled with their children abandoning everything else! The level of disaster is extreme.
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.
At the end, perhaps, Mosul will not be liberated neither the villages in the Nineveh Plain. There is no strategy to dry up the sources of manpower and the resources of these Islamic terrorists. They control the oil town of Zumar and the oil fields of Ain Zalah and Batma along with the oil fields of Al-Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in Syria. The Islamic extremist fighters are joining them from different countries around the world.
The choices of refugee families:
Migration: where and do they have the necessary documents and money?
To stay: in the halls and in the refugee camps, waiting the summer to end and winter to come? Will the schools be reopened and will their children go to elementary schools, high schools or colleges? Will they be welcomed in the schools in Erbil, Duhok and Sulaymaniyah? What is the future of the properties and belongings, along with the jobs, of these thousands of innocent people forced to fee overnight from their dear villages?
These are questions that should inflict pain in the conscience of every person and organization so that something should be done to save this people that have their history in this land from their beginnings.
Canon Andrew White, Vicar of Baghdad, speaks on Newsnight a few days ago:
A Requiem Mass was celebrated this morning for the dead of the First World War. We remembered in particular the members of the parish who gave their lives for freedom. A candle was lit for each one of them on top of the altar rails that were dedicated to their memory in 1920, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott:
They that sow in tears
shall reap in joy.
They that now go away weeping, and beareth forth good seed,
shall come again with joy.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
We will remember them.
CAFOD (Catholic Association For Overseas Development) have committed £50,000 to partners in Gaza so that they can scale up their response to the spiralling humanitarian crisis. Matthew McGarry, who works with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), describes the deteriorating situation: “There are entire neighbourhoods that have been basically destroyed. There are more than 240,000 people displaced with many more currently on the move. There are many others who are taking shelter either out in the open, or with relatives or in damaged buildings.”
CAFOD partners CRS and Caritas Jerusalem are working around the clock to reach vulnerable families, but the ongoing intensive airstrikes make it extremely difficult and dangerous to deliver aid. Despite the risks, they are on the ground with Gazan communities doing what they can.
CRS have mobilised their teams across Gaza city and Rafah – where homes have been totally destroyed – providing basic household items. Caritas Jerusalem’s medical centre and mobile clinic in Gaza city and Al Shatti refugee camp have been operating for the last few days, but are in urgent need of medical supplies and medicines.
Father Raed Abusahlia, director of Caritas Jerusalem said: “Most of the victims are children, women and old people.
“The needs of Gazans in this conflict are increasing day by day; we see that damage and destruction are everywhere in the Gaza Strip. Our urgent intervention is needed in this humanitarian crisis.”
The ferocious and relentless bombardment by the Israeli military on Gaza has left more than 1,200 people dead and over 6,000 injured, among them many women and children. More than 250,000 people have now been forced from their homes, fleeing in search of safety in one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
Mary Lucas, CAFOD’s Country Representative for the Middle East, said: “The loss of every human being in this terrible conflict is tragic. We call on the UK government and the international community to push hard for an immediate ceasefire.
“It is clear that the status quo is no longer sustainable. The only way out of the cycle of violence is to address the root causes of the conflict: there needs to be an end to the occupation of Palestinian territory, to the building of settlements and to the closure of Gaza.”
From Independent Catholic News
The Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza has just (afternoon of Tuesday 29th July) received an evacuation order warning them that Israeli forces are planning to bomb their neighbourhood tonight. In a message, a priest writes:
” The church of Gaza has received an order to evacuate.. they will bomb the Zeitun area and the people are already fleeing. The problem is that the priest Fr George and the three nuns of Mother Teresa have 29 handicapped children and nine old ladies who can’t move.
“How will they manage to leave?? If anyone can intercede with someone in power, and pray, please do it. We are trying.. may our impotence be taken up by his Omnipotence!!”
The House of Christ in Gaza, is a care home dedicated to looking after disabled children. The disabled children were removed from the care home into the Holy Family Church recently because Israel was targeting the area.
UPDATE – Thursday 31st July:
A bombing carried out by the Israeli army on Wednesday (30th July) morning near the Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza, has partially destroyed the adjacent parish school, the priest’s office and some rooms used by the parish. The main target of the bombing was a home that is situated a few metres from the parish and was completely destroyed by the raid.
Parish priest Fr George Hernandez said that yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), the Israeli army had begun to send SMS messages to residents of al-Zeitun – the eastern area of Gaza City which houses the Catholic and Orthodox parishes – and ordered them to leave the homes that were to be bombed. Many people ran away, but the evacuation was not possible for those who currently live in the church. Argentinian Fr George said there were three nuns of Mother Teresa along with 29 disabled children and nine elderly women in their care at the parish of the Holy Family.
“We had a tough night, but we are here. This war is absurd”, said Fr Hernandez. “After destroying the neighbourhood of Shujayeh, now Zeitun is being targeted. Everything happens around us. The Hamas militants continue to fire rockets and then hide in the alleys. And we cannot do anything. We cannot evacuate, it is impossible with children. Their families live here. It is more dangerous to go out than stay here. We try to stay in safer places, always on the ground floor. “
Bishop William Shomali, auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem (the name of the Roman Catholic Diocese) gave this interview a few days ago:
How do you view the situation today as the conflict rages in Gaza?
I view the violent situation today as an immediate result of the failure of the peace process started by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. He had nine months to write a political frame for future negotiations. The deadline came at the end of April without success. This failure caused a lot of frustration among Palestinians, tension and exasperation. The killings of the 3 Jewish young people, the detention of Palestinians which followed, the killing of the Palestinian young man in Jerusalem and the launching of rockets from Gaza were the triggering factors that caused the present violence.
Where are the voices for peace? Are there any on the Israeli side? Are there any on the Palestinian side?
There are voices of peace of course on both sides. I consider that Mahmoud Abbas is one of them. He’s against a third intifada and against escalation. He offered his condolences for the three Israeli teenagers, and he’s working for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, along with Mr. Sisi, the President of Egypt. On the Israeli side, there are also voices for peace: the religious leaders of Jerusalem (Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze) met at the Grand Rabbinate some days ago. They made an appeal for peace, in which they said that Jewish blood and Palestinian blood are equal, that life is precious because man was created in the image of God. But unfortunately such voices, as also the voices of the (political) left who demonstrated for peace in Tel Aviv and Haifa, are not heard in the midst of the shelling and killing. There are always people who seek peace and pray for peace.
Why do the hawks always win when problems arise?
When the hawks are in power they are the decision makers—so they win. This is the case in Israel now with the rightist party, and this is the case in Gaza with Hamas now.
What do you hope for here?
I pray for an immediate ceasefire but also to negotiate more seriously according to the international resolutions [of the United Nations] and the requirements of the two-state solution.
What is happening to the small Catholic community in Gaza? I see the Pope sent them a message of encouragement on July 17.
They are only 200 people. The Argentinean parish priest, Father George, is a courageous man. He is helping people as best he can. He opened his school to the homeless whose houses were bombed in these last days. The Argentinean sisters in Gaza left, but the sisters of Mother Teresa remained and continue to take care of the handicapped children. The email of the pope to Father George was to tell him that he is close to him and that he prays for him and for his community. And I believe that it is a very nice encouraging message that the pope remembers the parish priest of Gaza and the community.
What is the feeling among the Christians in the Holy Land?
The feeling among the Christians in the Holy Land is one of fear and frustration. They can’t understand that after the visit of the Pope to the Holy Land things didn’t improve but on the contrary they deteriorated. They can’t understand that. The same feeling was noted after the visit of John Paul II in the year 2000. Six months later the second bloody Intifada (uprising) started. But let us agree that it was a logical consequence of the failure at Camp David that same year.
Pope Francis phoned the presidents of Israel and Palestine on July 18. How significant was that?
It’s a nice gesture of the pope who considers them as his friends and men of peace. We expected that he would do such a gesture especially after the prayer encounter at the Vatican Gardens on June 8.
I believe in the effect of prayer even though in the immediate moment we don’t feel any result. We have to continue tirelessly to pray for peace. Prayers alone are not enough, there must also be a serious effort to reach a peace accord. We bishops of the Holy Land repeated many times that we want an immediate cease fire and the restart of peace negotiations.
Mass at Holy Family Church Gaza:
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