Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2014 / 09:54 am
Following the expulsion of Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul by ISIS jihadists, a new petition calls on the United Nations to intervene in the country.
"The last Christians have left Mosul, after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria gave them a choice between conversion to Islam, ruinous taxation, exile, or death," said the petition, posted to the website CitizenGo.org.
Posted on July 24, the petition had gained more than 133,000 signatures within five days.
"We must not be silent while another genocide occurs," the petition said. "We must push for the international community to act on behalf of the Christians in Iraq. Their survival depends on it!"
Christians have been in Iraq for more than 1,500 years. Over 1 million Christians lived in Iraq before the 2003 U.S. invasion, but their numbers have now plummeted, and observers fear that they could soon be eliminated from the area altogether.
Extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – known as ISIS or ISIL – have taken over and imposed a strict version of Islamic law in territories they control.
"We are speechless, because what has happened is really unbelievable," Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Syroub of Baghdad told Fides news agency. "Christians have lived in Mosul for centuries and these families have suddenly been yanked out of their cities, their homes, their lives. We are very concerned about the future of Christians in this country."
Pope Francis has called for peace in Iraq, and offering prayers for the situation of "our persecuted brethren" in the country.
"They are persecuted; our brothers are persecuted, they are driven out, they have to leave their houses without having the possibility of taking anything with them," the Pope lamented in his July 20 Angelus address.
Many Christians have had to flee to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, whose governor Nawzad Hadi has promised them protection. However, according to U.N. estimates, there are some 2 million refugees fleeing the violence.
For this reason, the petition, created by the Catholic news site Aleteia.org, asks the United Nations and the Arab League to "act immediately to save the Christian community in Iraq."
"Please do not remain silent while genocide occurs right in front of your own eyes," the petition says.
The petition can be found at http://www.citizengo.org/en/9810-save-iraqi-christian-community.