EXPRESSING SOLIDARITY — At a Parliament Hill rally Sept. 6, Imam Zijad Delic of the South Nepean Muslim Community denounced ISIS and said it has brought shame to Muslims. (CCN photo/Gyapong)

Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith leaders denounce ISIS barbarism

By Deborah Gyapong

Canadian Catholic News

OTTAWA (CCN) — On Parliament Hill Sept. 6, religious leaders, including two Muslim imams, denounced the barbarism of the Islamic State (ISIS), urging the protection of Iraqi Christians and other minorities.

Imam Mohamad Jebara of the Cordova Mosque condemned the persecution in a statement read by a representative, Imad Zammar, to the estimated 1,000 people gathered in front of the steps to Centre Block and extending to the Eternal Flame.

“Persecution, oppression and tyranny are deplorable and repulsive regardless of who perpetrates them and against whom they are perpetrated,” said Jebara. “I stand in solidary with my Christian brethren and other minorities who are suffering in the Middle East and condemn acts of intolerance against them as satanic deeds, contrary to the mercy which the Scripture calls us to embody.”

“I call on Muslim leaders to denounce this brutal segment of our community that is shame, that is shame, that is shame to all of us, a shame to me, a shame to my daughters and a shame to all my community,” said Imam Zijad Delic of the South Nepean Muslim Community.

“We are here to express solidarity with the Christians of the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria,” said Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast. “They are victims of every manner of horror: death, torture and deprivation of homes and businesses.”

He also highlighted the plight of other religious and ethnic minorities suffering at the hands of ISIS.

“They have been killed, raped, robbed, displaced and otherwise abused in ways that trample on their human dignity,” he said, expressing dismay that governments in Iraq and Syria have been unable to protect these populations.

“Make it clear to the government of Canada that you want more available spaces for Iraqi Christians to find refuge here,” the archbishop said. “Tell your MPs to remove bureaucratic barriers to persecuted Iraqi Christians being received in Ottawa and across Canada.”

Prendergast also read a statement from Rabbi Reuven Bulka who was unable to attend because of the Jewish Sabbath. “I speak to you as a survivor of many generations of attempts to perpetrate genocide on the Jewish people, including present iterations,” Bulka said.

“The fact that I am here, that the Jewish people are still here, should give you hope, real hope, that Iraqi Christians and other minorities will survive and outlive the evil, hatemongering murderers.”

Chaldean Catholic priest Rev. Niaz Toma, who is based in Hamilton, said his people are facing genocide in Mesopotamia. The native people of Iraq are being “kicked out of their towns and homes, leaving with only the clothes on their back, simply because of their faith, because they believe in Jesus Christ.”

He estimated 150,000 are “sleeping in churches, in church squares, in public parks and even in the streets.”

“International help is not fast enough,” he said.

Though some humanitarian relief organizations have provided food, people lack clothing and shelter and winter is coming, he warned.

“All the physical damages and needs are incomparable to the moral damages, insult and insecurity my brothers and sisters feel where our faith was insulted, our culture, our heritage and our civilization,” he said. “Who will be able to get us back over 1,300 inscriptions that have burned by ISIS, some of which date back to fifth and sixth century?”

“What we are facing today is not a persecution, what we are facing is a genocide, and we have not to be silent,” he said.

“Christians in the north of Iraq have lost trust,” he said. He told of one Christian family that had lived next door to Muslim neighbours for 20 years. The Muslim neighbours confiscated the Christian family’s belongings, he said. Even if the captured territory is liberated, Christians face an uncertain future.

“Muslims should speak up and say, never again, ensuring it will not happen ever again,” he said.

“We are deeply concerned, lest the Christians of Mesopotamia would face the same fate as the Iraqi Jews,” he said. A century ago, the Jewish population in Iraq was even larger than the Christian. But Jews were expelled from Iraq in the 1940s and 50s, he said.

Representing the Government of Canada, Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre pointed out 12 years ago Iraqi Christians numbered 1.5 million. Their numbers have shrunk to 200,000.
“This is an astonishing reduction in the size of the population; 70 per cent have been driven from their land and in some cases killed,” he said.

Poilievre dismissed any complex or “convoluted social explanation” of the root causes of terrorism.

The terrorist is motivated by “unvarnished, undiluted, unequivocal evil that must be defeated and destroyed,” he said. “This is not a cause related to social justice. This not about the depletion of resources.”

The fighters “come from some of the wealthiest places on the planet,” describing many as leaving their “privileged upbringings” to fight in a foreign land. Those funding ISIS are among the wealthiest countries on the planet, he said. They are using their wealth and privilege “to single out a small and vulnerable population for death and destruction.”

“That is the textbook definition of genocide,” he said.

Poilievre outlined the assistance Canada has given, including the deployment of emergency stockpiles that can feed and provide shelter and other essentials to 25,000 people for three months. Canada is also providing non-lethal security assistance such as helmets and body armour and logistical support for security forces. And Canada is also providing soldiers who can advise the Iraqi and Kurdish governments on how to defeat the terrorists.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said he had just returned from Northern Iraq on a trip with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Liberal critic Marc Garneau where they could see ISIS’ position two kilometres away. He also met with Christian leaders.

“They need the world to help, they need Canadians to help,” he said.

“It is hard for us to conceive of what has happened until you are there,” he said. They were able to visit refugees. “They are the lucky ones. They are getting shelter and food.”

But here are thousands in places like Dohuk who have no support, he said. “We don’t know the numbers of those who have been slaughtered and were not able to escape.”

“We have to build refugee camps immediately,” he said. “It’s so crucial we help those who are literally living in the streets who do not have food, who do not have water.”

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