By Sarah Mac Donald - 15 August, 2014
The Council of European Bishops’ Conferences has sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council call on the international community to take urgent “decisions to put an end to the atrocious actions against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq”.
The letter will also be handed to different European governments and EU authorities urging them to join in this appeal.
The letter has been signed by the Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences from the entire continent members of CCEE.
The European bishops hope that other institutional, cultural and religious bodies will join in this initiative condemning what is happening in what they term as a violation of the right to life, security and religious freedom.
In their letter, the prelates state, “It is urgent to undertake concrete humanitarian steps to respond to the desperate situation of the Iraqi Christians and hope that in this case, too, the international community may be able to respond with rapid assistance to the many refugees and guarantee their security in returning to their cities and homes”.
The letter states that the Catholic Church in Europe wishes to express its closeness to all those who are experiencing moments of fear and terror.
“It is committed to carrying out gestures of solidarity which are already underway to support the suffering peoples and families.”
The bishops assure them of their prayers for peace and with great dedication raise their voices in calling on the UN to act with the necessary urgency on behalf of these and all the other victims of war and violence who are suffering and awaiting the world’s solidarity.
The Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) encompasses the current 33 European Bishops’ Conferences, represented by their Presidents.
These also include the Archbishops of Luxembourg, of the Principality of Monaco, the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus and the Bishop of Chişinău (Moldova Rep.), the Eparchial Bishop of Mukachevo and the Apostolic Administrator of Estonia.
The current President is Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary and the Vice-President is Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa.
The Secretariat is based at St Gallen in Switzerland.
Separately, the leader of the catholic church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols sent a letter to the British Foreign Secretary welcoming the humanitarian efforts that the British government has made in Iraq over the past few days.
But the Cardinal warned that the “relief operation” and “crucial diplomatic efforts” must be increased.
“There needs to be a sustained focus on creating a more stable society based on respect for fundamental human rights, especially freedom of religion, and the rule of law. Britain has a role to play in that and I ask that you increase the existing efforts made by the Foreign Office to promote a culture in which the dignity of the person is paramount,” Cardinal Nichols stated in his letter.
He enclosed the statement from the European Bishops’ Conference to the UN Security Council, highlighting the “anguish of Europe’s Catholics at what is happening in Iraq” and the practical expression of this concern via the work of Catholic relief agencies.
On Wednesday, the Vatican published a letter from Pope Francis to the Un in which he urged the international body “to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” in Iraq. The letter was dated 9 August.
In his appeal of 13 August, Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako called for the international community to assist refugees and “clear” the Nineveh plain in northern Iraq “from all the elements of jihadist warriors.”
Some 100,000 Christians have fled from 13 villages in the past seven days and are “trying to survive in parks and public places” according to the Patriarch.
“The suffering increases, and the international efforts to alleviate their pain are insufficient,” he said.
“If the situation does not change, the whole world should take the responsibility of a slow genocide and of a genuine and entire component of the Iraqi society and of losing its heritage and age-old culture. ISIS tries to erase all traces!”
In a separate appeal, the patriarch called upon priests and monks not to make statements to the media, but instead leave that task to the bishops.
“The priests and monks have to stay in their parishes or with their displaced communities,” he said. “Their current mission is to stand by the families in need and relieve their pain.”