The National Catholic Reporter’s editor-at-large Tom Roberts had a posting on its website this Tuesday entitled, “Where is the outrage over Mosul?” Roberts quoted Father Robert Imbelli from Commonweal magazine (both of these publications are considered left-of-center, which gives more credibility to their concern over the expulsion of Christians from Mosul, Iraq, since it cannot be seen as merely a right-wing attack on the Obama Administration), who wrote, “What actions are being taken in the United States? Could a National Day of Fast be proclaimed, perhaps in preparation for the feast of the Transfiguration [Wednesday, August 6]? Could a delegation from the Bishops’ Conference travel to Iraq, accompanied by editors of prominent Catholic periodicals?”

Roberts echoed Imbelli’s call, although he did get in a dig at conservative Catholic and Protestant critics of the administration. “Indeed, this is a case where religious liberty is actually and demonstrably being denied. Any ideas for how to show solidarity? Call the world’s attention to the tragedy amid all the other chaos claiming our notice?”

Imbelli did praise the New York Times editorial board for writing, “The brutal crackdown, by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, an offshoot of Al Qaeda known as ISIS, has cleared Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, of a Christian population that has lived there for two millenniums. These attacks deserve the strongest possible international condemnation and may warrant prosecution as a crime against humanity.”

Imbelli also quoted Vatican Radio’s coverage of prominent Moslems who have spoken out about the expulsion of the Christians. “The most explicit condemnation came from Iyad Ameen Madani, the secretary general for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the group representing 57 countries, and 1.4 billion Muslims. In a statement, he officially denounced the ‘forced deportation under the threat of execution’ of Christians, calling it a ‘crime that cannot be tolerated.’ The secretary general also distanced Islam from the actions of the militant group known as ISIS, saying they ‘have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.’”

Commonweal had a link at the end of Imbelli’s article to The American Conservative (showing that we can be united, occasionally, once we cross the water’s edge), which praised secular France for stepping up to the plate to help these Christians (just as we did here at The Anchor, when France decided to put its own soldiers at risk to save Christians in the Central African Republic this year). Rod Dreher wrote on that conservative website, “And what of our nation, whose previous government did so much to ruin the lives of Iraq’s Christians? Why is Washington silent? Is there no room in our country for Christians whose families have been in Iraq for nearly 2,000 years — until the U.S. invasion caused the condition that led to their exile? Ours is a big country, filled with well-off and not-so-well-off churches that would surely be willing to help resettle and support these refugee families. As a Christian and an American, it is a matter of shame to me that France, which did not participate in the war that has resulted in the destruction of Iraqi Christianity, a secular nation where relatively few people go to church, is opening its doors to these displaced and persecuted Christians. Why not us? What is wrong with us? Vive la France! Yes, there’s probably some deeply cynical and political reason that Paris is doing this. But still, they’re doing it, and that’s probably the only thing that matters to refugee families. So, encore: vive la France!”

The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, has written twice to National Security Advisor Susan Rice, most recently on July 25. “I ask the U.S. government to do all that it can to provide this critical assistance to those in desperate straits and to work with other governments in an effort to stop the violence.” The U.S. government, in its official statements about ISIS had barely commented on the situation of the Christians under its rule.

Pope Francis on July 20, during his Angelus remarks, said, “May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence: Mary Queen of peace, pray for us!” 

Maybe over this next week we can take Imbelli’s advice to pray and fast for our fellow Christians under attack there and throughout the world — on the feast of the Transfiguration (Wednesday) or on Monday (when we celebrate the patron feast of parish priests, St.  John Vianney, praying for these people who have lost their parishes) or whenever we can. 

Anything we do will be a help.

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