We Must Speak Out!
The plight of Christians around the world, especially in the Middle East, has become a major humanitarian catastrophe. Yet there is little attention being paid in the West, and few governments are saying anything in response. The Holy Father, on Easter Monday, challenged people not to be “silent and inactive”, in the face of the "unacceptable crime" of the persecution of Christians around the world. And Cardinal Dolan has also called for people to speak out about the situation, lest this Easter be the last for Christians in the Middle East.
One way to do this is to use the USCCB Action Center to contact your Congressional representative and urge them to support the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (more information about this important bill can be found below).
Testimony Before Congress on Religious Persecution
On May 13, 2015, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on "Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities". Among the witnesses was Sr. Diana Momeka, who is a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena from Mosul, Iraq. She gave powerful testimony about the persecution of Iraqi Christians, and how over 120,000 have been forced to flee their homes because of the threat of being killed by ISIS. Her testimony can be read here.
On March 11th, 2015 Bishop Oscar Cantú, Bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and
Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace testified before Congress about the current condition of Christians in the Middle East.
The numbers of persons and families impacted by the rampage of ISIL is staggering. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) identified close to 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) across Iraq in February 20151. That same month in Syria OCHA identified over 12 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, almost 4 million who had fled the country as refugees, and over 7.5 million internally displaced.2
The U.N. estimates that the Syrian civil war, now entering its fifth year, has killed 220,000 persons. In Iraq, the U.N. reports that “[f]rom the beginning of January until 10 December 2014, at least 33,368 civilians casualties have resulted from the ongoing violence, including at least 11,602 killed and 21,766 wounded.” Of course, all of these casualties and forced displacements are not due solely to religious persecution, but the weakening of the rule of law and the corresponding rise of extremist groups, many associated with ISIL, created the conditions where religious persecution could grow malignantly like a cancer unchecked. In Syria and Iraq, religious persecution is a distinct crisis within a wider crisis.
The full document may be seen here.
USCCB addresses the President and Congress members of the United States
After the brutal murder of 21 Coptic Christians in Lybia, the USCCB sent a letter to President Obama and members of Congress addressing these Religious Freedom Violations and Violence in the Middle East.
USCCB call for Prayer for Persecuted Christians
On March 10th, 2015 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called people of all faiths "to pray for victims of religious persecution and violence and work to protect the marginalized and persecuted around the world". Click here to see the full statement.
For a summary of the current condition in the Middle East, please read the USCCB's document on Human Rights in the Cradel of Christianity.
For more information from the USCCB, please visit their International Religious Freedom webpage.