Pope calls for prayers as last Christians flee Mosul
Patriarch claims international community aids aggressors
Picture: AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro
As the last Iraqi Christians in Mosul fled the city, Pope Francis urgently called for prayers, dialogue and peace.
"Violence isn't overcome with violence. Violence is conquered with peace," the pope said before leading thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square in a moment of silent prayer July 20.
"Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are chased away," he said, as he assured Christians in all of Iraq and the Middle East of his "constant prayers."
The pope's plea came as the last Christian families living in Mosul were forced from the city after facing increasing threats, violence and intimidation.
The Islamic State group, which has taken control of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, was threatening to kill any Christians who did not convert to Islam or pay a tax, Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan told Vatican Radio.
The militants in Mosul also burned to the ground the building housing the Syriac bishop's office, residence and library, and everything inside, he said July 19.
Islamic State fighters "have already threatened that if they don't convert to Islam, all Christians will be murdered. It's terrible! This is a disgrace for the whole international community," he told the radio.
The international community must immediately halt all aid to the Islamic State group, he said.
"Whom are they getting their weapons from? From these extremist nations in the (Persian) Gulf, with the approval of Western political leaders because they need their oil."
The patriarch said the world community must uphold human rights and the freedom of religion.
"We are in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon: We Christians weren't imported, we've been here for millennia and, therefore, we have the right to be treated as human beings and citizens of these countries," he said.
Patriarch Younan spoke with Pope Francis by telephone July 20 while visiting Rome and told him of the "disastrous" situation in Mosul.
The pope said "he was following closely and with anxiety the plight of Christians" in Mosul, the patriarch told Catholic News Service.
During their nine-minute phone conversation, the patriarch begged the pope "to continue intensifying efforts with the powerful of this world" and to warn them "that it is a mass purification based on religion which is underway in the province of Ninevah," whose capital is Mosul.
Source: Catholic News Service
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