Pope Francis has considerably upped the ante in enlisting spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I – to sign a joint Common Declaration demanding an end to international indifference regarding Islamic State barbarism being perpetrated against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.
The Common Declaration constitutes an impassioned plea on behalf of 1.2 billion Catholics and 300 million Orthodox Christians world-wide for concerted international action to eradicate Islamic State.
Whilst two seemingly indifferent Permanent UN Security Council members – Russia and China – and another 129 member States of the UN stand on the sidelines, an American-led coalition comprising the remaining 62 UN member states has been doing the heavy lifting confronting Islamic State outside United Nations’ authorisation, prompting the Pope and Bartholomew to declare:
“While recognizing the efforts already being made to offer assistance to the region, at the same time, we call on all those who bear responsibility for the destiny of peoples to deepen their commitment to suffering communities, and to enable them, including the Christian ones, to remain in their native land. We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes. It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests. And, tragically, all this is met by the indifference of many.”
The Pope and Bartholomew have demanded this shocking state of affairs be met by:
“an appropriate response on the part of the international community.”
No nation should shirk from its duty to eradicate the threat Islamic State poses to the breakdown of world peace and security.
“The grave challenges facing the world in the present situation require the solidarity of all people of good will”
Islamic State needed to be confronted by Muslims and Christians together:
“Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war”
In a further pointed criticism of Russia, the Declaration stated:
“We also remember all the people who experience the sufferings of war. In particular, we pray for peace in Ukraine, a country of ancient Christian tradition, while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony.”
The grim situation facing Christians in Iraq has been confirmed in a video released on the Orthodox Christian Network by Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad.
Canon White – who was ordered to leave Iraq for his own safety by the Archbishop of Canterbury – speaks movingly of the plight of Christians there. Around 250,000 have been displaced by Islamic State in the north of the country – all that remained from the 1,500,000-strong Christian population.
“Things were bad in Baghdad, there were bombs and shootings and our people were being killed, so many of our people fled back to Nineveh, their traditional home. It was safer, but then one day, ISIS – Islamic State. They came in and they hounded all of them out. They killed huge numbers, they chopped their children in half, they chopped their heads off, and they moved north and it was so terrible what happened.”
Islamic State forced Christians to convert to Islam on pain of death, Canon White added.
He told of the fate of a group of Christian young people:
“Islamic State turned up and said to the children, you say the words that you will follow Mohammed. The children, all under 15, four of them, said no, we love Yesua, we have always loved Yesua, we have always followed Yesua, Yesua has always been with us. They said, ‘Say the words.’ They said, ‘No, we can’t.’ They chopped all their heads off. How do you respond to that? You just cry.”
Meanwhile US Secretary of State, John Kerry, was depressingly telling a meeting of the US-led coalition that the limited military action being undertaken against Islamic State could see the Coalition’s commitment being:
“measured most likely in years …”
Kerry however left no doubt on the Coalition’s mission:
“Our coalition does not summon hate, but rather the courage to build a future that is based on shared interests, shared values, and a shared faith in one another. That contrast in goals marks the dividing line between barbarism and civilization, and it explains both why we dare not fail and why we will succeed.”
The dividing lines have been drawn – demanding that every member state of the United Nations declares on which side it stands and what it will contribute towards eliminating Islamic State.
The international community needs to shed its present indifference and unanimously take up the call of the Pope and Bartholomew to put an end to the horrors represented by the Islamic State and those who are flocking to fight under its flag.
Time to end this reprehensible international indifference – and time to stop crying.
David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network.