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U.N. Is Called to Recognize Christian Genocide

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This week, the United Nations Human Rights Council began its third (and last) regular session of the year, where a major ally of persecuted Middle Eastern Christians will again implore the U.N. to recognize the genocide of Syrian and Iraqi Christians, reported National Review (US).

At the 39th UNHRC session, which runs from September 10 to September 28, the European Centre for Law and Justice will be presenting an appeal to the Council to recognize ISIS’s ongoing, rampant persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria as a “genocide,” as it’s enshrined in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) is the American Center for Law and Justice’s European affiliate, and it has been a consistent advocate for persecuted minorities in the Middle East. Their testimony at this session will be their seventh declaring that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities. Before this, their most recent testimony was May 25, when they requested that the U.N. appoint a special adviser to lead an investigative team to collect and preserve evidence of the genocide.

According to their written statement for the September 10th session, the declaration of genocide is necessary because it allows for aid that is otherwise unavailable for the victims, and it allows the U.N. to take the steps necessary to “fully halt the genocide and fulfill its responsibility to protect the victims.”

While many ISIS-controlled areas have been liberated in Syria and Iraq, Christians are returning to destitute towns without electricity, water, or a sense of security, with the threat of terror still looming.

“The reality is we cannot stay without the U.S. or the U.N. helping to protect Nineveh directly,” Father Afram al-Khoury Benyamen told Fox News after Sunday Mass in 2017 at St. George Cathedral, a 133-year-old church in Bahzani, Iraq. “With international protection, maybe we can remain, but if it doesn’t come soon . . . we go.”

According to a study by Aid to the Church in Need, the treatment of Christians has worsened substantially in the past two years compared with the two years prior and is more violent now than at any other period in modern time. Between the onset of the Syrian war in 2012 and 2017, the number of Christians dropped from 1.5 million to 500,000. In Aleppo, Syria, which was home to Syria’s largest Christian population, numbers fell from 150,000 to 35,000 by the spring of 2017, which is a drop of more than 75 percent. In Iraq, over half of the country’s Christians are internal refugees, and the report predicts that Christianity in Iraq could be effectively wiped out by 2020 if the population continues to decline as it has in the past two years.

Aid to the Church also accuses the U.N. and Western media of neglecting persecuted Christians: “At a time in the West when there is increasing media focus on the rights of people regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexuality, it is ironic that in much of the secular media there should be such limited coverage of the massive persecution experienced by so many Christians.”

While the U.N. did appoint the special adviser, as the ECLJ requested, the U.N.’s declaration of the persecution of Christians in the region as “genocide” would be the most consequential step in facilitating and achieving lasting resettlement for the victims.

ISIS’s crimes against Christians include beheadings, burning victims alive in caskets, and rape. “No one cares about us, like we are not human,” said one Christian survivor about the U.N.’s inaction.

The Christians in Iraq and Syria are considered some of the oldest continuous Christian communities in the world, and in Iraq, the Assyrians and Chaldean Christians are the indigenous people and speak Eastern Aramaic. Thomas the Apostle and Mar Addai brought Christianity to Iraq in the first century. Residents of Syria’s ancient Christian town of Maaloula also speak Aramaic, the language of Christ; Maaloula is among the last communities in the world to speak the nearly extinct language.

“The U.N. must defend the rights of all religious minorities, including the Christians in Iraq, Syria, and any other place where ISIS has been engaging in genocide — without delay,” notes the ECLJ testimony for the current session. “The very mission of this organization requires nothing less.”

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The Holy See is working assiduously to guarantee a future for Christians in the Middle East who risk disappearing and asks that the international community commit itself to allow the return of refugees and guarantee their future, reported AsiaNews (Italy).

This is what Pope Francis said receiving the participants at the sixth working meeting on the crisis in Syria and in the neighboring countries, 150 people, organized this week by the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development Service, with the involvement of the Migrant and Refugees Section, in collaboration with the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for Oriental Churches. Representatives of local Churches, apostolic nuncios, delegates of Catholic institutes and over 50 charitable organizations attended.

Francis said that we cannot forget the "many needs" of the victims of the crisis in Iraq, Syria and neighboring countries, instead he said we need to overcome the "logic of interests", putting ourselves "at the service of peace" and "ending the war". He said "we cannot turn a blind eye to the causes that have forced millions of people to leave their land in pain. At the same time I encourage all the actors involved and the international community to renew their commitment to the safe return of displaced persons to their homes. Ensuring their protection and their future is a duty of civility. It is only by drying the tears of children who have seen nothing but rubble, death and destruction that the world will rediscover its dignity ".

The Pope expressed his appreciation for the "great efforts for refugees" made by the countries of the region and by international organizations and together with Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Vatican Dicastery, he thanked Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"Every day - he said - in prayer, I bring before the Lord the sufferings and the needs of the Churches and of the peoples of those beloved lands, as well as those who are doing their best to help them. And this is true: every day! ".

The Pope added that with the ongoing survey on the humanitarian aid of ecclesial entities, the third of this type, aims to make "an important contribution to better understand the needs and better coordinate the aid" in favor of these populations. "There is a risk - he warned - that the Christian presence will be erased from those very lands from which the light of the Gospel has spread throughout the world. In collaboration with the sister Churches, the Holy See assiduously works to guarantee a future for these Christian communities. The whole Church looks to these our brothers and sisters in the faith and encourages them with closeness in prayer and concrete charity not to resign themselves to the darkness of violence and to keep the lamp of hope burning ".

Precisely the "witness of love" with which the Church listens and responds to the "cry for help of all, starting with the weakest and poorest", is "a luminous sign for the present and a seed of hope that will sprout in the future" . This is a stoutly Christian work which recalls the so-called Simple Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: in the face of hatred, love is brought to bear, in the face of despair there is hope, joy prevails over sadness.

Among the "praiseworthy" initiatives promoted as part of the Church's response to the current crises, the Pontiff cites "the great work to support the return of Christian communities in the Nineveh plain" in Iraq and the health care provided to so many poor people in Syria, " in particular through the Open Hospitals project "strongly desired by the apostolic nuncio to Damascus, Cardinal Mario Zenari. Therefore, the wish is to be "instruments of peace and light".

"Dear brothers, together, with the grace of God, let us look to the future. I encourage you, working in the name of the Church, to continue to take care of the education of children, of the work of young people, of closeness to the elderly, of the treatment of psychological wounds; without forgetting those of hearts, which the Church is called to soothe: 'Where there is offence, that I bring forgiveness. Where there is discord, union".

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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