Rally for Christian refugees brings awareness to current climate in Iraq

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Recently Sunni militants of the al Qaeda splinter group ISIS moved into Mosul, a city in the Nineveh province of northern Iraq, and issued an ultimatum to the Iraqi Christians who lived there. Leave Mosul by noon of the following day, stay and pay a tax to practice their faith or be executed “by the sword.” Most fled the city the following morning.

Recently Sunni militants of the al Qaeda splinter group ISIS moved into Mosul, a city in the Nineveh province of northern Iraq, and issued an ultimatum to the Iraqi Christians who lived there. Leave Mosul by noon of the following day, stay and pay a tax to practice their faith or be executed “by the sword.” Most fled the city the following morning.

San Diego East County Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce held a rally at the Prescott Promenade on July 18 urging action in support of the Christians who fled Mosul. 

Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, said more than 1,500,000 Christians in Iraq have been displaced since the start of the war.

“We’ve counted more than 120 churches that have been bombarded and destroyed, thousands of people have been killed, hundreds have been kidnapped,” he said. “ISIS has taken over Mosul and spray painted the letter N in Arabic to let everybody know where the Christians live.” 

Dr. Ghassan Hanna, a former senior adviser to the state department who has been deployed to Iraq twice, was outraged at the violence being committed against the peaceful Iraqi Christians.

“I challenge any media, any press, and journalist to show me an attack done by an Iraqi Christian against any Muslim or against any group,” he said. “We love our land and we want to live in peace and that is our crime, but we face a terror group who believes Muslims are better than everybody else.”

Hanna said the homes of those who fled Mosul are being marked as property of ISIS and in towns that have not been occupied yet water and electricity is being cut. 

“Our people are digging wells as the water and electricity is being cut in an attempt to force them to flee their homes,” he said. “And if that does not work, they just kill them.”

Father Youkhanna, parish priest of St. Rabban Hormizd Assyrian Church of the East, said the prayer Our Father in Aramaic before he spoke. His message was brief but he urged all who attended the rally to pray for their Christian brothers and sisters who are going through this hardship.

“Everybody has the power to do something to help them,” said Youkhanna. “Call on our government, the united states, to do something to save our people in Iraq.” 

Claudine Barin, of the Seyfo Center USA, thanked all who attended and said the purpose of this rally was to be a voice to those who have no voice.

“They [Iraqi Christians] cannot defend themselves, they are hopeless,” said Barin. “They have been told to leave their homes behind, or to convert to Islam or pay extra taxes. That’s not fair.”

She said history is repeating it self as a similar occurrence happened 100 years ago as the Ottoman Empire committed offenses against the same group of Christians.

“Please anyone in power, please help our people,” she said. “For us Christians living here in land of freedom, let’s be united. Let us join our hands together and hold each other as we are followers of Jesus Christ.”

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