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The situation facing the Christians, Yazidis and other religious and ethnic minorities in northern Iraq continues to cause great concern.?? All week we have been hearing and seeing news about efforts to help those in peril of their lives from the barbaric attacks of the jihadists? of the so-called Islamic State. The Vatican, through the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious dialogue, issued a statement saying that the crisis facing the minorities in Iraq demands a clear and courageous stance on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims, those engaged in interfaith dialogue and everyone of goodwill.

The Vatican insists that all must be unanimous in condemning these crimes and must denounce the invocation of religion to justify them. Otherwise, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have?.

In a harrowing list the statement then details some of the atrocities already committed against Christians and others: beheading, crucifixion; abduction of women and girls and other barbarities too horrible to mention.? More recent reports include burying people alive.

This week the Patriarch of Baghdad called on the US, the UN and the Arab League to flush out the ISIS forces from the plain of Nineveh or be responsible for a slow genocide.? He also pleaded that those in immediate danger be airlifted to Baghdad.

Also this week the Pope wrote a heartfelt letter to Ban-Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, urging a much swifter response to the catastrophe in northern Iraq.

Here at home we continue our prayers; one suggestion was that we pray the Hail Holy Queen for peace in Iraq.? If we are in a position to do so we should pressurize our local and national leaders to be more vocal in their condemnation and more imaginative in their responses to the humanitarian crises we are facing.? Solidarity with the Palestinian victims of violence brought people in their thousands onto the streets of Cape Town; where are the protests about what is happening in northern Iraq??? What is the local and national government doing or even saying?

With the instant media coverage of these atrocities, none of us can say we did not know!

Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.

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