By Sarah Mac Donald - 13 August, 2014
The Vatican on Tuesday issued a strongly worded statement condemning the “unspeakable criminal acts” committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the Sunni jihadist group that has seized much of Syria and Iraq.
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said these actions brought shame on humanity.
In its statement, the Vatican Council said that the majority of Muslim leaders reject the Islamic State’s claim that it has restored the caliphate abolished in 1923 by Kamal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey.
The Pontifical Council added that it could not but “denounce and condemn unambiguously” the “unspeakable criminal acts” committed by the group.
These included killing persons on account of their religion, “the execrable practice of beheading, crucifixion, and hanging corpses in public places,” and the choice given to Christians and Yazidi to convert to Islam, pay a tax, or leave one’s home.
The Pontifical Council also condemned the Islamic State’s “forced expulsion” of tens of thousands of persons, the enslavement of Christian and Yazidi women and girls as war spoils, the imposition of female genital mutilation, and the destruction and desecration of Christian and Muslim places of worship and cemeteries.
This Pontifical Council, together with all those engaged in interreligious dialogue, followers of all religions, and all men and women of good will, can only unambiguously denounce and condemn these practices which bring shame on humanity, the press statement said and cited:
-the massacre of people on the sole basis of their religious affiliation;
-the despicable practice of beheading, crucifying and hanging bodies in public places;
-the choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of a tax (jizya) or forced exile;
-the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, elderly, pregnant women and the sick;
-the abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as spoils of war (sabaya);
-the imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation;
-the destruction of places of worship and Christian and Muslim burial places;
-the forced occupation or desecration of churches and monasteries;
-the removal of crucifixes and other Christian religious symbols as well as those of other religious communities;
-the destruction of a priceless Christian religious and cultural heritage;
-indiscriminate violence aimed at terrorizing people to force them to surrender or flee.
“No cause, and certainly no religion, can justify such barbarity. This constitutes an extremely serious offense to humanity and to God who is the Creator, as Pope Francis has often reminded us,” the Vatican Council said.
It also recalled that Christians and Muslims have lived together – with ups and downs – over the centuries, building a culture of peaceful coexistence and civilization of which they are proud.
“Moreover, it is on this basis that, in recent years, dialogue between Christians and Muslims has continued and intensified.”
The Vatican Council then called on religious leaders, especially Muslims, as well as those engaged in interreligious dialogue and all people of good will to take a “clear and courageous stance” on the plight of Christians, Yezidis and other religious communities and ethnic minorities in Iraq.
“All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and in denouncing the use of religion to justify them. If not, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? What credibility can the interreligious dialogue that we have patiently pursued over recent years have?” the statement continued.
It added that religious leaders are called to exercise their influence with the authorities to end these crimes, to punish those who commit them and to re-establish the rule of law throughout the land, ensuring the return home of those who have been displaced.
“While recalling the need for an ethical management of human societies, these same religious leaders must not fail to stress that the support, funding and arming of terrorism is morally reprehensible.”
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said it was grateful to all those who have already raised their voices to denounce terrorism, especially that which uses religion to justify it.
“Let us therefore unite our voices with that of Pope Francis: “May the God of peace stir up in each one of us a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated by violence. Violence is defeated by peace,” it concluded.