The World Council of Churches (WCC) has issued an urgent call to the United Nations for an immediate response to the killing of Christians and others by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant fighters.
The call, which was sent to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, follows on the heels of an urgent appeal made by the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Louis Raphael Sako, calling for assistance to Christians from the plain of Nineveh, Iraq, who are fleeing their homes and communities because of ISIS militants conducting a two-day mortar attack.
The WCC also sent a letter to its 345 member churches around the world making them aware of the situation in Nineveh and asking them not only to pray and provide emergency support for the people of Iraq and Nineveh, but to apply pressure on their governments to call for an end to the brutal aggression of ISIS.
“We are deeply disturbed by threats encountered by the ancient Christian churches and other religious and ethnic communities of northern Iraq, and by indications that hundreds of thousands of them have already fled their homes,” said Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, associate and acting general secretary of the WCC, on Thursday 7 August.
“According to the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Louis Raphael Sako, there is an urgent need for immediate action to protect these people and deploy all efforts to bring them back to their homes,” she said.
“While we are grateful for what is being done already, we appeal urgently to the United Nations to establish and maintain the necessary diplomatic contacts to ensure the rights, dignity and physical survival of the diverse peoples of Iraq and its neighbours,” Phiri said.
“We want to assure you that the people of Iraq, and the leaders of the United Nations, remain in our thoughts and prayers,” she added.
According to the letter from Patriarch Sako, which is dated 7 August, during the night of 6-7 August ISIS militants conducted a mortar assault in the region that has driven as many as one hundred thousand Christians from their homes and villages, most fleeing on foot towards the Kurdish cities of Erbil, Duhok and Sulaymaniyah.
Those fleeing include the sick, elderly, infants and pregnant women. There is an urgent need for water, food and shelter, the letter from Sako said.
The letter reports that churches and church properties in the villages were being destroyed by the ISIS militants along with the burning of old manuscripts and desecration of the buildings.
According to Joseph Thomas, the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, who spoke with Agence France Presse (AFP), whole towns have been emptied of their populations.
The WCC encourages its member churches to support emergency appeal efforts being coordinated by the ACT Alliance, responding to the need of people affected by the conflict.