Iraqi Archbishop pleads for international help

‘The world cannot turn a blind eye to the tragedy’

A Syrian Catholic prelate in Iraq has made an impassioned plea to the international community for help for communities trapped between opposing sides now likely to clash in the country.

Speaking last weekend from the town of Qaraqosh (Bakhdida), which lies just a few miles to the south-east of Mosul, Archbishop Yohanna Petros Moshe of Mosul has indicated that Qaraqosh is very likely to become a battleground between advancing fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Peshmerga fighters loyal to the authorities of the Kurdish autonomous region lying to the east. In recent days, ordnance and manpower have begun arriving in Qaraqosh to counter any attempt by ISIS to surge east.

Issuing his appeal on behalf of civilians now squeezed under threat of imminent violence, Archbishop Moshe said: "I appeal to the consciences of political leaders around the world, to international organisations and to all men of good will: it is necessary to intervene immediately to put a stop to the deterioration of the situation, working not only at a humanitarian level, but also politically and diplomatically. Every hour, every day lost, is likely to make all unrecoverable. Inaction becomes complicity with crime and abuse of power. The world cannot turn a blind eye to the tragedy of people who have fled from their homes in a few hours, taking with them only the clothes they are wearing".
In the face of approaching violence nearly all of Qaraqosh’s 40,000 inhabitants have attempted to flee, many to the relative safety of the Kurdish region, but many also into the surrounding Niniveh Plains, where their existence is extremely precarious.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako has revealed that he has issued an appeal to Muslim leaders to issue fatwas against sectarian violence.

Speaking following the conclusion of the synod of Iraqi bishops in the city of Erbil, Patriarch Sako said he hoped Muslim leaders would use the month of Ramadan to preach messages of peace and reported that the bishops had formulated a working group to respond to the most pressing needs of civilians during the Iraq crisis.

 “We have put together a team of five bishops,” the patriarch said, “three Chaldeans, plus the Syro-Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Moshe and the Syro-Orthodox bishop of Mosul – to deal with the most critical emergencies. We have allocated 160,000 dollars for the first batches of aid sent out to everyone, Christians and Muslims alike, in light of the new emergency. Most politicians are adamant the situation is going to get worse and that the country is moving towards a split.”