“There is still hope for the Christians in Iraq, but only if we act now”• Charity head speaks of “impending genocide”

0819Iraq_Church_St_ JosepH _ Refugees in Ankawa_ ErbilBy Maria Lozano and John Newton
THE international head of a Catholic charity has called on the world’s governments to act immediately to keep Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.
“If we do not want to be silent witnesses to the last chapter of the history of Christendom in Iraq, the international community must respond decisively now,” said Baron Johannes Heereman, international president of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Baron Heereman made the statement after returning from Erbil, Iraq, where the charity is supporting the Church’s emergency aid for internal refugees.
His words echoed Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako’s message to him during his trip: “There is still hope for the Christians in Iraq, but only if we act now.”
The international head of ACN travelled to Iraq at the invitation of the Patriarch of Babylon to show solidarity with the region’s suffering Christians and receive first-hand reports about the needs of the more than 100,000 displaced Christians.
He met with Christians who have taken refuge in Ankawa, the Christian quarter of Erbil, and the villages north of Dohuk and Zakho.
ACN has provided more than a quarter of a million US dollars (£160,000) for the Church’s emergency aid in the country.
Baron Heereman said: “The situation is dramatic. We met bishops, priests, nuns and volunteers who are working day and night to provide elementary aid. Temperatures are around 44 degrees [Celsius]. The people need a roof over their heads and medical care. There is still much to be done.”
He said that as well as providing emergency aid, the question must be asked what can be done for the Christians and the other minorities in Iraq to ensure that the current crisis does not recur.
“Many of them have already travelled a long road of oppression and suffering. They are disheartened and only want to get away. They beg for help to obtain a visa for another country.
“But there are also still many who wish to return to their homes, which have often been looted by their neighbours – back to the place where they have lived for generations and where their history and roots are. They left everything behind when they fled, and yet they want to go back,” said Baron Heereman.
He added that the charity is calling on the western world to take moral responsibility to help the Christians and the other religious minorities who wish to stay in Iraq by ensuring their protection and security.
The international head of ACN said: “This cannot remain simply the concern of the Church in Iraq. We must not be silent witnesses to a destruction that is now reaching the scale of a disaster of civilisation.
“One can certainly speak of an impending genocide. The Church can alleviate pain and want, but questions of security and defence as well as the right to life and religious freedom are a political matter.”

0819Iraq_Park of the Church of St Josef in Ankawa A lot of families who left Qararosh at the 6th August came here


0819Iraq_One of the families who left Qararosh at the 6 August_ACN Delegation in Iraq August 2014_642px