Young Iraqi Christians, Muslims, and Yazidis are the seeds of dialogue in a Land broken by the Islamic State

6606442621494827991ERBIL: In order to overcome the murderous madness of the Islamic State, which has covered with blood a land already brutalised by years of wars and violence, it is necessary to start with “a plan of dialogue and outreach at the local level”, involving first of all children and young people, the new generations, “who will be tasked with building life together” beyond their respective religions.

Starting from such premises, Fr Samir Youssef, pastor of the diocese of Amadiya (Iraqi Kurdistan) who has long been on the frontline of the refugee emergency, is promoting a project to transform “young Muslims, Christians and Yazidis” into “seeds of dialogue ” to breathe new life into Mosul, the Nineveh plain, and Iraq as a whole.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the priest mentioned an initiative that is in its initial stage, but one that has already garnered “the enthusiastic participation” of some thirty of kids, aged 10 to 16, from various religious background. “We started with a group of about 30-35 kids,” Fr Samir said, “but we want to increase the numbers for the summer, involving young people from high school and university.”

The aim is to find youth “eager to talk, communicate, and bear witness” that living together is possible and that from this, a model can emerge applicable across the country, and beyond.

“We have already started to meet,” he added, “although getting the first results will take some time. At the moment, the first group, the base on which to start working, has been found. It includes a dozen Christians, eight Muslims and seven Yazidis. There are also Sabians and Turkmen.”

As parish priest in the diocese of Zakho and Amadiya (Kurdistan), Fr Samir is responsible for about 3,500 Christian, Muslim, and Yazidi refugee families who fled their homes and property in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain to escape Jihadis. Since the summer of 2014 and the start of the emergency, the clergyman has played a key role. Working with him and Iraqi bishops, AsiaNews has recently renewed its Adopt a Christian of Mosul campaign to provide refugees with kerosene, shoes, clothing, and school material for children.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HERALD (MALAYSIA)

Iraq’s Muslims celebrate Christmas in solidarity with Christians

baghdad-tree

A tall, glittering tree erected outside a shopping centre in Baghdad could be considered an incongruous display of Christmas festivity in mainly-Muslim Iraq. But the 7-metre-high tree at Sama Mall in the south east of the capital, adorned with tinsel, stars and bells, is one of a number of decorations put up by residents and business owners in solidarity with the country’s Christian minority.

 Muslim businessman Yassir Saad has spent around £19,000 on a huge artificial tree to help Iraqis “forget their anguish” over the war against Isis.

The 85-foot decoration is on display in a Baghdad theme park. Visitor Saba Ismael said it “represents love and peace”. “I wish all Iraqi Christians could return to Iraq and live normal and peaceful lives,” she said.

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FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

How religious holidays are uniting Iraqi Muslims and Christians

Christians Ramadhan

The Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate in Iraq called on Christians to fast one day during the holy month of Ramadan. On June 17, Iraqi Christians fasted alongside the Muslim community. The patriarchate’s statement said, “For one day, [Christians] will show solidarity with the fasting Muslims; they will pray for peace and stability in Iraq and the region, as well as for the consolidation of the culture of brotherhood, love and coexistence.”

Father Maysar Bahnam of Mar Korkis Catholic Church in Baghdad told Al-Monitor, “Christians are organizing activities to reach out to Muslims. Our church organized on June 9 an iftar [meal served at sunset] for the fasting Muslims, as an annual tradition that promotes coexistence between Christians and Muslims.”

The official in charge of the church’s Social Committee, Issam Maskouni, told Al-Monitor, “Organizing an iftar for Muslims provides a meeting point for Muslims and Christians far from sectarian bickering and in an atmosphere free from the hate speech and divisive rhetoric prevailing in the political scene.”

For his part, Louis Raphael I Sako, the current Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, told Al-Monitor, “These initiatives are not new to the Chaldean Church and other churches of Iraq. Churches have always provided aid to all Iraqis without exception. They distributed food to refugees fleeing the oppression of the Islamic State [IS], and they did this on different occasions and in different camps. Churches provided medicines to charitable clinics, organized iftars for the fasting Muslims, and hosted and provided care for displaced university students to allow them to complete their academic year or graduate.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL MONITOR 

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Christians join Muslim Ramadan in symbolic act of solidarity in Iraq

iraqi-christiansThe Chaldean Patriarchate invited Iraqi Christians in the war-torn country to celebrate the Holy Ramadan with their fellow Muslim citizens as a symbolic gesture of solidarity.

Heeding the call of Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Iraqi Christians joined Iraqi Muslims Friday, June 17 in celebrating the holy month of Ramadan by fasting and prayer.

“In this way we just wanted to propose a Christian gesture: as Christians, we are confident that fasting and prayer, also shared with others, can work miracles, while weapons and military interventions only kill,” Sako told Agenzia Fides.

Muslims around the world celebrate Ramadan by dawn to dusk with fasting and intense prayer. They commemorate the time believed when Allah revealed the Quran to Prophet Muhammad.

The Christians also accompanied their symbolic gesture with acts of charity as they pray for peace and stability in a country that’s ravaged by Islamic State terrorists and produced a large number of internally displaced people.

“Today we will offer, through Caritas Iraq, a contribution of $50 thousand in favor of the refugees of Fallujah,” said Sako.

The patriarch added that they planned to “symbolically offer” Iftar to some Iraqi Muslims as they break the day’s fasting. He noted that although many Muslims expressed gratitude, some Christians abroad criticized their gesture.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN TIMES 

 

Islam, ISIS and the violence against Christianity — Syed Farid Alatas

24-Christians-AP (1)NOVEMBER 11 — Forces fighting under the self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, after having captured large areas of Iraq and Syria earlier this year, not only fought against and killed Muslims who stood in their way, but also began barbaric acts of violence against Christians and other religious minorities. Many Christians were threatened with their lives for not converting to Islam. They had to endure harassment, arrests, and various forms of violence. As a result tens of thousands of Iraqi Christian men, women and children have fled what had become a genocide against an ancient Christian community. Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod of the Syriac Orthodox church said that ISIS had burned churches, old religious texts, damaged crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary, and converted churches into mosques.

How is it that a group that claims to rule in the name of Islam can be so brutal to fellow human beings? Many would claim that Islam is a religion of peace and that violence perpetrated in the name of Islam is actually due to distortions or misunderstandings of the religion. There are those, however, who would say that Islam is not innocent of its militant and murderous adherents. They often cite verses of the Qur’an such Al-Tawbah [9]:5 which says: “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)”.

To make matter worse, it is always possible to find historical cases of the brutal treatment of Christians by Muslims. A case in point is the 11the century Fatimid ruler, Abu Ali Mansur Tariq al-Hakim. Al-Hakim was known in the West as the “Mad Caliph” because of the brutal manner in which he treated religious minorities. The persecution of Christians and Jews began under his reign in 1004 AD when he decreed that Christians would no longer be allowed to celebrate Easter. Al-Hakim is also known to have forced Jews and Christians to become Muslims at the point of a sword, destroyed numerous churches and other Christian holy sites in Palestine and Egypt, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1009.

How do we reconcile the verses of the Qur’an that appear to support the violence perpetrated against Christians such as during Al-Hakim’s and Al-Baghdadi’s reigns?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MALAY MAIL 

French Muslims back Middle East Christians against ISIS

french-muslims-christians-isis.siThe Muslim Council of France (CFCM) in a joint statement with a Christian group denounced the persecution of Middle East Christians by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and said mosques across France would pray for them this week.

Although several French Muslim groups have already condemned the atrocities of the Islamic State (IS) jihadi militants who have declared a medieval-style caliphate in Iraq and Syria, this is the first time that French Muslims have teamed up with Christians to support the victims of IS.

In a joint statement, the CFCM said “barbarians are perpetrating crimes against humanity exploiting Islam as their banner.”

“The signatories reaffirm their support to their Middle Eastern Christian brothers, many of them Arabs, as well as for all other minorities in the region who are now victims of a destructive campaign by these terrorist groups that threaten their existence,” the statement read, as cited by Reuters.

Islamic State jihadists persecuted and drove Christians out of Iraq’s northern city of Mosul in July, which ended their presence in the town stretching back to the early years of Christianity.

They also drove out the neighboring Yazidi community, as well as executing many Yazidi men and forcing women and children into slavery. Other Muslims are not immune; Shiites have also been targeted in large numbers.

“The issue of Middle East Christians is not only one for Christians. French Muslims are with us to support them,” said Patrick Karam, head of the Endangered Middle East Christians Group, which helped to draw up the statement with the Muslim Council.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RT NEWS 

An open letter from Lebanese Muslims and Christians to Ban Ki-moon on the fate of Mosul’s Christians

ANSA610748_Articolo-620x350A group of liberal-minded Muslim and Christian Lebanese professionals and academics has written an open letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressing grave concern about the latest persecution of Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul by the “Islamic State.” Here is the text of the letter prepared by the group, which prides itself on embodying the best thatLebanon has produced by way of peaceful pluralistic coexistence and mutual respect among the 18 religious denominations recognized in the Lebanese Constitution.

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

We are a group of Muslim, Christian and Druze professionals and academics from Lebanon who are old schoolmates and lifelong friends, some of us since early elementary grades. In all modesty, we constitute a representative sample of the finest that Lebanon’s peaceful pluralist coexistence among various religious sects has produced over the years despite what turmoil the country has been through in recent decades.

We have taken the liberty to write you this letter because of our deep alarm at what is happening to the Christians of Mosul in Iraq, and generally to the native Christian and other minority communities throughout the Middle East. In particular, these beleaguered ancient Christian communities of our region are struggling hard as they face mounting pressures and challenges from the same violent and intolerant fanatics. Confronted with forced conversions, or a humiliating life of collective submission, or the sword, Mosul’s Christians have naturally opted to leave just as other Christians in neighboring hotspots have done before them. This time round, however, it is unconscionable that the international community would stand idly by and allow the wholesale destruction of rooted communities solely because of their religious beliefs. The United States in particular bears an important burden in this regard since its actions in Iraq beginning with the 2003 invasion that rid the world of a brutal dictator unintentionally hastened the demise of a good portion of that country’s Christian community. Religious cleansing was not tolerated in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, and it should not be accepted in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East in 2014.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LEBANESE DAILY STAR