A plea from Christian churches around the world: Stop the genocide in Iraq and Syria
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Christian leaders throughout the Middle East have called on Muslim governments and religious authorities to condemn the Islamic State for its ongoing persecution of minority religious communities in Iraq and Syria.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The leaders said that international reaction from Arab countries has so far been "timid" and that great condemnation needs to come from these countries as hundreds of thousands of Christians are forced to flee, and Christians and other minorities are massacred.
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"The situation of Christians and other minorities amid the massacres and atrocities of (Islamic State) is dire and our future in the region is at stake," said Patriarch Ignace III of the Syrian Catholic Church of Antioch.
"The leaders of Arab countries and the Arab League have to stand up and do something."
Patriarch Sako I of the Chaldean Catholic Church said that in Iraq over 10,000 Christians have been killed by the militants and some 170,000 expelled from the country's northern regions.
In Syrian areas under Islamic State control, roughly half a million Christians have been forced to flee areas where they had long lived at peace with their Muslim neighbors.
"We are calling on the religious leaders of the Muslim countries to issue a fatwa (religious edict) against the killing of any human being, not just other Muslims," said Patriarch Sako. "So far, their voice has been very timid."
Two other patriarchs and six other church leaders echoed these sentiments, including Greek Orthodox and Coptic clergy.
"If not strongly condemned and effectively destroyed, then this ideology will damage the entire system of human rights," the group said.
During the Geneva news conference, the two Catholic leaders said that they were nervous about the ongoing U.S. airstrike campaign, fearing that it could boost Arab support for the Islamic State.
"It needs boots on the ground, just bombing is no solution," said Patriarch Sako. "But these should perhaps be Arab boots. The Arab League should be involved. This is primarily the responsibility of the Arab states."
U.S. efforts to build an international coalition against the Islamic State has not found much traction with regional Arab nations, who are wary of stepping into a sectarian war, but Patriarch Ignace said that this reluctance must be tossed aside in order to offer a unified front against the Islamic State.
"(Islamic State) was born in this context, an amalgam of religion and the state," he said. "Our Arab friends tell us they want us to stay but we have to ask them: what are you doing to stop the fanaticism of your fellow Muslims?"
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