Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Christian Holocaust

Are they coming to a town near you? Or are they already there?

The last few weeks have been awful for Christians the world over as we look helplessly on what is happening to our brothers and sisters in the faith in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The self-styled "Islamic State" group have been slashing their way through Christian villages, homes and churches, forcing people to flee for their lives, stealing their belongings and presenting the ultimate ultimatum to those unable to get away from them: convert or die.  This is a Christian holocaust. And it has been happening for the last number of months.

There has been a response from the west, the US has sent the air-force in to hamper IS's progress towards Kurdish territory and some supplies are being dropped to thousands of refugees, the UK air-force is assisting in this. While supplies are needed, these military actions will not stop IS: the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church has expressed his disappointment with the anemic response from the west.  When you listen to the news, certainly here in Ireland, the emphasis is on the unfortunate Yazidis and the humanitarian crisis facing them, the massacre of Christians for the last number of months is hardly referred to, so much so that many do not even know Christians are being obliterated. 

But of course those who see the reality of the problem know that we are now facing the most serious problem with militant Islam in recent times.  With the west's head firmly stuck in the sand, and with such a late and paltry response, one which may well convince these militants that the west is fast asleep, there is a danger that this radical group's progress will not be hampered. One of the problems the west may not have thought about is the real possibility that radicalized Muslims around the world, seeing the effectiveness of this group, may well rally to IS's cause. IS has already proclaimed a Caliphate, the dream of so many radical Muslims, particularly young disillusioned ones, and though it may sound silly and anachronistic to us, it may not to young men ambitious to turn the world into the realm of Islam.  So far, I have been told, IS controls an area as large as Great Britain.

And lest we think this progress is confined to the Middle East, we have to remember that IS has its sights set on Europe and eventually the US. They have to reestablish Istanbul as their city - members of the group have already said they are planning a campaign to take Istanbul, and after that undo the defeat at Vienna. If they were to seek to invade in the usual way they may not achieve those aims - people have said that the west's military ability will be well able to stop them. But how will the west stop members of IS already present in Europe and the Americas who wage a guerrilla war as the first stage of an invasion campaign? Lest we fool ourselves it is sobering to remember that IS flags have been seen at pro-Palestinian marches in recent weeks.

That said, the appalling truth is that the west, the US, EU, UN, have stood by as thousands of Christians in Iraq have been forced out of their land, many of them executed in a most brutal way. It seems from this lack of response that when Christians are being killed it is of no interest to the secular governments of the "free world", however, when a group like the Yazidis are in danger, then it is okay to come to their rescue, that is acceptable. And I am sad to say leadership in the Catholic Church has been no better: pious words, calls for peace and an envoy will not achieve much; they will not stop IS terrorists hacking the head off another Christian child.

The Yazidi are getting the help they need, thank God for that. On Mount Sinjar supplies are being distributed and journalists are crawling around like ants. But in the refugee camps outside Ibril where Christians are taking refuge, people are starting to die. As one person working there tweeted to me a couple of days ago, they need so much and are getting so little, no one seems interested.

I note with some chagrin that our government here in Ireland has said next to nothing. The Americans may complain about their President off playing golf on his holidays, at least he sent the air-force in and yes, more needs to be done. But our lot here are doing nothing. Our Senate was recalled a few weeks ago to give Senators an opportunity to condemn Israel in the conflict with Gaza. No sign of any of them being recalled to propose and consider what to do to assist Christian men, women and children in Iraq who are facing annihilation. Alas they will not, there are no votes in it, and after all, what are martyred Christians in comparison with an American Country singer?


  1. Just to say that the Bishops of the Philippines have called for a Day of Prayer on the 18th August for those Christians suffering in Iraq and the Middle East. Perhaps our own Bishops could do the same. All Masses in the Philippines on that day will be offered for them. What else can we do on a practical level ?

  2. Fr. i have just seen where the Irish Bishops have asked for a Day of Prayer on Friday August 15th, Feast of Our Ladys Assumption, that all Masses and Friday penances be offered for Peace in Iraq. God bless.