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ACN News – Address to the United Nations Security Council by Chaldean Bishop

11.12.2019 in Chaldean Catholic, Iraq, United Nations, Youth Apostolate

Iraq

Address to the United Nations Security Council

An ACN partner, Msgr Bashar Warda, Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil in Iraq, gave an address to the United Nations security council on December 3rd.  Here is what he had to say to the international community.


Archbishop Warda at Myeondong Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul – a special Mass and lecture for the Church in Iraq was held.

Address of Archbishop Bashar Warda

Kurdistan Region, Iraq

To: UN Security Council, New York
December 3, 2019

Security Council Meeting Concerning the Situation in Iraq


Thank you Madame President:

 

What is the current situation?

The current protests in Iraq demonstrate the rejection by the majority of the Iraqi people of the post 2003 structure and government of the country. It is a rejection of a sectarian-based Constitution, which has divided Iraq and prevented it from becoming a unified and functioning country. Instead of bringing hope and prosperity, the current government structure has brought continued corruption and despair, especially to the youth of Iraq.

It is very significant that young Iraqis have been the leaders in the protests. These young people have made it clear that they want Iraq to be independent of foreign interference, and to be a place where all can live together as equal citizens in a country of legitimate pluralism and respect for all.

It is important to understand that Christians have not only sided with the protestors openly, but
also that the Christians and other minorities including Yazidis, have been welcomed into the protest
movement by the Iraqi Muslims. In a real sense, these protests have demonstrated the true richness of
the historical Iraq. This opening of reconciliation between all Iraqis demonstrates real hope for positive
changes in which a new government in Iraq, if there is a new government, will be much more positive
towards a genuinely multi-religious Iraq with full citizenship for all and an end to this sectarian disease
which has so violently harmed and degraded us all.

In contrast, the non-violence of the protestors must not be overlooked by the international
community. These courageous protestors have been committed to non-violence from the very beginning
of the movement, even though there have been daily instances of extreme violence directed towards the
protestors from militia forces who have continually attempted to provoke confrontation. Over 400
innocent protestors have now been murdered, and many thousands seriously injured. Yet the protestors
still remain non-violent.

 

What is at stake?

At stake is whether Iraq will finally emerge from the trauma of Saddam and the past 16 years to
become a legitimate, independent and functioning country, or whether it will become a permanently
lawless region, open to proxy wars between other countries and movements, and a servant to the
sectarian demands of those outside Iraq.

If the protest movement is successful in creating a new government, with a new, civil
constitution, respecting the diversity of its religions, and cultures, one not based in Sharia but instead
based upon the fundamental concepts of freedom for all, freedoms enshrined in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights written by this organization where we all sit today, then a time of hope can
still exist for the long suffering Iraqi people. Despite everything, the Iraqi people love their country, and
they want it back.

If the protest movement is not successful, if the international community stands by and allows
the murder of innocents to continue, Iraq will likely soon fall into civil war, the result of which will send
millions of young Iraqis, including most Christians and Yazidis, into the diaspora. In the crisis and the
genocide of 2014, over four million Iraqis, Muslims, Yazidis and Christians fled to the Kurdistan region
seeking refuge from the evil of ISIS, but still remained within the country. In another major conflict, we
are likely to see the people flee from Iraq for good. We are indeed at perhaps the last chance for our
country.

 

What can and should the international community do to help?

The international community must not be satisfied with false changes in leadership which do not
really represent change. It is clear that the ruling power groups do not intend to give up control, and that
they will make every effort to fundamentally keep the existing power structures in place. The
international community must clearly understand that the protestors will not accept this, and the
international community must not take part in supporting any type of false change.
This is not to say that certain groups do not have legitimate concerns regarding their proper
representation in any new government. However, these concerns must be addressed in a way which
reflects the reality of the current broken nature of Iraq’s government, and its fundamental need for
change and replacement.

The first step must be the initiation of early elections. The protestors insist on this and the
International community must fully support this. Unlike the very limited participation of past elections,
these elections must involve the youth of the country – those who have stood up so courageously against
corruption during the protests these past weeks.

In the period before and during the elections, the press, both Iraqi and international must be
completely free to report on and discuss all the issues that need to be addressed by the elections. In this,
the current blocking of news reporting, internet and social media, must end immediately.
Finally, elections must be fully monitored by the United Nations, and observed by all major
parties in Iraq so that the elections are legitimate, free and fair. Only in this way can a new government
set a course for the future of an Iraq which is free of corruption and where there is full citizenship and
opportunity for all.

The young Christians of Iraq have been participants in these protests every day. They have been
there because the protests have given them hope for a future, a future in which they belong as equal and
contributing Iraqi citizens. Along with the millions of other marginalized Iraqis, they look now to the
International community for your action and support. We hold you all accountable for this. Iraq, the
country which has so often been harmed, now looks to you all for help. We believe we have a future,
and we ask you not to turn away from us now.

Thank you

ACN Feature Report: Christians as victims of global developments

06.05.2019 in Religious Freedom Report, Sri Lanka, United Nations, Venezuela, Violence against Christians, World

WORLD

2019 – One of the bloodiest years for Christians thus far 

The papal charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has voiced concern in the face of increasing attacks on Christians all over the world. “As the brutal bombings perpetrated against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday show, 2019 is already one of the bloodiest years for Christians,” declared the executive president of ACN, Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern.

The charity, which brings aid to poor and persecuted Christians in more than 140 countries, has become aware of and reported publicly on, among others, the following anti-religious attacks in the first four months of the year alone:
  • – Attacks by Islamist Séléka militia on a catholic mission station in Bangassou Diocese in the Central African Republic in which dozens were killed and around 20,000 people fled the violence at the first of January;

  • – The Islamist attack on the cathedral of Jolo in the southern Philippines which killed 20 people and injured around 90 at the end of January;

  • – Attacks by members of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen tribe on Christian villagers in the Nigerian state of Kaduna in mid-March that left more than 130 dead; and,

  • – Attacks by extremist Hindu nationalists on a Catholic school in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu at the end of March, in which the nuns who worked there were categorically hunted down.

Jesus

Christians as victims of global developments

Heine-Geldern

“The atrocities in Sri Lanka mark the bloody climax of a trend that has endured for some years now: the persecution of Christians knows no bounds. It knows no let-up, especially on the holiest days of the Christian calendar. It knows no mercy on innocent people, who are often made scapegoats for global developments,” Heine-Geldern explains.

Following the attacks in Sri Lanka responsibility was claimed by the Islamic State terrorist militia. Security authorities harbour the assumption that the bombings may have been organized in retaliation for the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand where, in mid-March, a 28-year-old man killed 49 people in two mosques.

Aid to the Church in Need also points to the continuing Islamist threat in the Middle East, as well as the violence by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. “To say that IS has been beaten militarily and therefore no longer exists is a fallacy – the ideology lives on, as do its supporters; the contact channels appear to be working. Our project partners in the Middle East remain extremely concerned,” states Heine-Geldern.

Religion often used as a political weapon to plunge countries into chaos. Most recently additional concerns for the charity have arisen about the situation in countries on the American continent such as Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela, where bishops and priests have suffered repeated attacks as a result of political turmoil. “Here it is a mixture of political ideology and the accusation that the Church is meddling because it calls on people to resist authoritarian governments and corruption. This makes it a target for aggression and violence,” Heine-Geldern says.

 Religion: used as a weapon

In many parts of the world religion is used as a political weapon to destabilize countries and plunge them into chaos. This, Heine-Geldern continues, is what is happening again in Sri Lanka. There the Church is trying extremely hard to prevent outrage at the atrocities from spiralling into further violence. “Social stability is based to a large extent on the peaceful coexistence of the various faiths. This is something many of our project partners are working to achieve,” comments Heine-Geldern.

It is rare for anti-Christian attacks to attract public attention. Thus, the perilous situation in which the Christian minority in Pakistan finds itself first became internationally known through the fate of Asia Bibi, a mother who was sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy and acquitted by the court of last instance. Together with other organisations, Aid to the Church in Need had campaigned for her release. Notwithstanding this, Asia Bibi’s fate still remains uncertain.

Religious and political extremism: main causes of persecution

Extremist Islamism, excessive nationalism and authoritarian ideologies are still the main drivers of persecution against Christians and other religious minorities. This is also the conclusion of the Religious Freedom Report, the latest edition of which ACN presented in November 2018 and which illuminates the situation in 196 countries. “We note with great concern that, regrettably, none of these three trends has diminished – quite the contrary. This is currently evident among other places in African states such as Burkina Faso, Niger and Benin, where the hostilities on mission stations, priests and nuns have dramatically increased. People are becoming more and more frightened,” Heine-Geldern observes. According to Heine-Geldern, this distressing development must be challenged. “It is the duty of governments and the UN to bring about peace, to guarantee freedom of religion and to repel anti-religious attacks,” says Heine-Geldern. As for Church, Heine-Geldern says, their role is to stand by the persecuted Christians through prayer and active support and to give them a voice and a face. “ACN has been campaigning for this for more than 70 years. In view of the growing violence against Christians, it is a cause worthy of every support and every effort.”

The 2018 Report on Religious Freedom is available at : www.religious-freedom-report.org.  
For a quicker overview, please go to view our summary version for the report:  Religious Freedom Report 2018

Press Release – Syrian Children appeal for Peace

06.10.2016 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Children, European Union, PAIX, Peace, Syria, United Nations

 

 

Syria

More than one million children sign an appeal for peace

 

Damascus/Montreal Thursday, October 6,  2016 –These days, children at more than 2,000 schools all over Syria are drawing and writing messages to the political decision makers of the European Union and United Nations under the motto “Peace for Children.”

 

Initiative oecuménique et interreligieuse, la signature par les enfants syriens d'une pétition destinée à l'Union européenne et aux Nations-Unies est un appel au monde pour qu'advienne la paix en Syrie.

This appeal for peace is a joint campaign being carried out by Catholic and Orthodox Christians in Syria and members of all religious communities have been invited to take part.

 

Children of all Christian denominations in Damascus, Homs, Yabroud, Aleppo, Marmarita and Tartus are making October 6 a joint Action Day for Peace. They are expressing their desire for peace through songs, dance, theatrical performances, prayers and other activities. Several children in Aleppo will also share their personal experiences. Sister Annie Demerjian, one of the local organizers of the event, said, “When a child talks about losing his father, for example, we will follow it up by praying for all children in Syria who have lost parents or siblings.” The main ceremony will be held in Damascus on Friday October 7 and it will be attended by groups of 50-75 children from each of the country’s major centres.

 

“Give us our childhood!”

 

The Syrian Children’s Petition for Peace“I am extremely touched by the event to which numerous parishes of the local Church are participants, and happy that our organization can collaborate with them,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada. “The children are the future of the country, and this action recalls that they do not wish to go overseas: they want to stay – as do their parents – to rebuild what these five years of incomprehensible war have created.  It is time that the international community listen to the cries from the hearts of the littlest!” insists Mrs Lalonde.  “I invite all Canadians to sign on the micro-website: https://acnmercy.org/syrian-children/,  the petition will be remitted to European and international bodies.”

 

Syrian schoolchildren – also including many Muslims – are writing messages to the global community on white balloons. These include such messages as “We want peace!”, “Give us our childhood!”, “We don’t want any more war!” and “We want to go to school!”

 

Thousands of children in Syria have been killed during the war. According to data provided by the Oxford Research Group, more than 11,500 children died in the first two years of the conflict alone. Half of the 11.4 million Syrians who have fled inside or outside of the country are underage minors. More than 2.1 million Syrian children are unable to attend school because of the war. Many children are severely traumatized. Children are frequent victims, not only of direct acts of war, but of abductions, torture and sexual exploitation.

 

The children’s campaign for Peace arose from an initiative of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Since the conflict began in March of 2011, the international pastoral charity has been active in supporting the victims of the war and providing financial support, in particular for families who have lost their homes, have been forced to flee within the country or have been displaced. Aid is primarily granted to projects that secure the immediate survival of the people, and especially of children and babies. A sizable amount of the financial aid is used to procure accommodations for what are in general large families with many children, to supply essential foods and medicines as well as baby formula and diapers, warm winter clothing and heating oil and electricity. It is also being used to ensure that children can attend school. The aid is provided directly to the families in need, irrespective of their religious affiliation, through Catholic bishops and local church structures. Over the past five years, emergency aid amounting to approximately 19 million CAD has been granted.

*Sign-up to pray with them at https://acnmercy.org/syrian-children/

 

This can be done by simply entering your name and email address and clicking the ‘Pray‘ button below.  Thank you for supporting the voices of children in Syria for Peace.