Eleven international Christian and Muslim groups have issued an urgent appeal to the United Nations and the League of Arab States to address the “horrific” suffering of Christians and other minority groups in the northern and western parts of Iraq.
“The untold suffering of minority groups as a result of escalating violence and attacks is unacceptable and the violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws is despicable,” said a joint statement that was endorsed, among others, by Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance. “There are reports of gross human rights violations, especially committed against women and children, which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” (The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, or PWRDF, the Anglican Church of Canada’s relief and development agency, is a member of ACT Alliance, a global grouping of church-based agencies working in emergencies worldwide.)
“…We are utterly shocked at the horrific wave of attacks that has so far led to the killing of many and left hundreds of thousands more homeless, desperate and in flight,” said the organizations in their statement. “We are further concerned and saddened by the many cases of kidnapping and hostage-taking of people, including women and children.”
On Aug. 25, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, issued a statement that also condemned the “appalling and horrific crimes against humanity” committed in Iraq by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
Men, women and children are being targeted based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation, said Pillay in a statement. “The violations include targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, trafficking, slavery, sexual abuse, destruction of places of religious and cultural significance, and the besieging of entire communities…” Among those targeted have been Christians, Yezidi, Shabaks, Turkomen, Kaka’e and Sabaeans.
In Nineveh, hundreds of Yezidis have been reported killed, and up to 2,500 have been kidnapped since the beginning of this month. Those who have refused to convert to Islam have been executed, while women and children were handed over to ISIL fighters as slaves, said Pillay.
“UN staff members in Iraq have been receiving harrowing phone calls from besieged civilians who are surviving in terrible conditions, with little or no access to humanitarian aid,” said Pillay.
Since the start of 2014, about 1,000 people have been killed and 1.2 million others have been displaced by the wave of attacks by ISIL/ISIS.
Earlier this month, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, joined 11 Canadian faith leaders in condemning the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the city of Mosul.
“We stand with the Christian minority in Mosul, Iraq, at this time of great anxiety and fear. We hold them in our prayers. They will not be forgotten,” said a joint statement issued by the faith leaders.
PWRDF also announced an initial grant of $10,000 through the ACT Alliance to help assist people displaced by the conflict.