Displaced Christians, other minorities continue to suffer in Iraq

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Christians and other religious minorities continue to suffer in Northern Iraq, as the United Nations reports that over 1.2 million people have become internally displaced since the start of 2014.

The Catholic News Agency reports that, Kris Ozar, head of programming for Catholic Relief Service Egypt, has been traveling back and forth from the Kurdish capital Erbil, where more than 70,000 Christians have been displaced from their homes in Mosul, Bakhdida, and other towns in Nineveh Province by the Islamic State (IS), the terrorist group that has a recently established a “caliphate” which extends across swaths of Iraq and Syria.

All non-Sunnis within IS's sphere of influence have faced persecution, with Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims often being offered a choice between conversion, exile and death.

Ozar voiced concern that public authorities lack a plan for the internally displaced persons.

Nobody knows what to do at the moment, but there are 1.2 million internally displaced persons, according to United Nations data,” he told CNA “These people are in need of everything. They don’t just need food clothing, water, food, i.e. the essential needs. We should remember that winter is coming and that they cannot sleep in the open air.”

Ozar recounted his experience in Erbil: “I saw tens of thousands of people sleeping under the open sky, in fear. They sleep in precarious hygienic conditions, they fear everything.”

One predominantly Christian neighbourhood in Erbil, Ankawa, usually has a population of about 22,000 people. But with the massive influx of refugees from around the country fleeing the fighting with IS, the population has swelled to over 100,000 -- five times above normal.

Christian leaders in the West have continued to condemn the violence, and the West's inaction.

Pope Francis, in a questions and answers session on the papal plane, told journalists: “Today we are in a world at war everywhere. A man said to me, ‘Father we are in World War III, but spread out in small pockets everywhere.’ He was right.”

According to The Tablet, the Pope said that he is considering going to northern Iraq himself to show solidarity with those who have been murdered, raped and driven from their homes by the IS. He added that strong measures were “justified” - so long as this was by widespread agreement and not only the acts of one country. “In those cases where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor,” he said. “I underscore the verb ‘stop’. I don't say ‘to bomb’ or to ‘make war’, but to ‘stop’.”

The Tablet also reports that the leader of the Greek-Orthodox Church in Austria, Metropolitan Arsenios (Kardamakis), accused the Western world of inaction and indifference to “the terrible persecution that Christians worldwide are having to face”. “It hurts to see the ‘civilised world’ failing to react when children are suffering and dying ... such a civilisation gives us no hope and makes us sad,” he said.

Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury said last week that attacks on minorities in northern Iraq, including Christians, were "off the scale of human terror we've seen in recent years" and called for evidence to be gathered for future war crimes prosecutions.

Archbishop Justin Welby, on a one-day visit to Australia for the inauguration of Melbourne's Archbishop Philip Freier as Anglican Primate of Australia on 13 August, said ever since the “war to end all wars” ended in 1918, humankind had been saying “never again”, then wrung its hands "as genocide unfolds in some distant corner".

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