The Middle East’s Catholic patriarchs have issued Christmas messages lamenting the suffering of the region’s Christians from severe persecution, according to CNS, the official news organ of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan called attention to “our beloved brothers and sisters of Syria and Iraq […] deprived of the Christmas joy, having endured the horrible consequences of war, violence, and all kind of persecutions,” noting that “they suffered “all this hardship” because of their Christian faith.”
The patriarch added that Christians were “uprooted from their lands and driven out unjustly from their homes by barbarian terrorists, in Mosul and the Plain of Nineveh, Iraq,” referring to the exodus of some 100,000 Christians – including at least 60,000 Syriac Catholics – when the region was overtaken by Islamic State militants in 2014.
“How would they welcome Christmas, but in tears and anxiety for their future!” the patriarch wrote.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, speaking from Bkerke, the patriarchate north of Beirut, appealed to the international community to work to end terrorism “that is killing and displacing families and depriving them of their rights and dignities.”
Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham stressed that “today in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity, the Christian presence is threatened […] by wars that have given rise to this terrifying exodus, especially of Christians.”
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako wrote from Baghdad, that “amidst the concerns and worries of Iraqis, Syrians, and people of the Middle East, in which children and civilians are victims of a harsh war, millions of persons are displaced from their homes, driven out of their lands and are living in tragic conditions, after the destruction of their towns’ infrastructure.”
The genocide of Christian minorities in Iraq, Syria and Libya by the Islamic groups, including ISIS climaxed following the collapse of parts of Northern Iraq in June 2014. According to US diplomats, the region’s “Christians have borne a heavy burden given their small numbers.”
In February, 2016, the EU recognized in a unanimous vote the persecution of Christians by ISIS as genocide. The US Congress followed suit in March 2016, also declaring, in a unanimous vote, these atrocities as genocide. In April 2016 the British Parliament voted unanimously to denounce the same actions as genocide.
A similar motion failed in Canada when it was opposed by the majority of PM Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party.