BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai called Sunday for solidarity with the Christians of Iraq and asked the international community to intervene to put a stop to the persecution of Christians by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).
“We pray for our national unity, and for the unity of the communities of the Middle East afflicted by divisions and wars, for the spread of peace and understanding,” he said during Sunday Mass at his summer residence in Diman, north Lebanon.
“We renew the patriarchate’s call to the Arab League, the United Nations, the Security Council and the International Criminal Court to put a stop to ISIS’ attacks and those of other fundamentalist organizations against the Christians of Mosul and the villages of Ninevah in dear Iraq, and allow the return of those Christians to their homes and properties with dignity, securing for them a decent life in their home countries with all the rights of citizens.”
In July, ISIS began expelling Christians from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Earlier this month, the extremist group took over Iraq’s largest Christian town.
Rai lamented the fate of some 150,000 displaced Christians, some of whom have been stranded in the mountains without food or water. He went on to call for solidarity from civil and religious groups and asked members of the community to assist with providing shelter and food for Christian refugees in coordination with the Chaldean Church and other congregations.
“We thank everyone who extends a hand to our Iraqi brothers who have sought refuge in Lebanon.”
The Maronite religious leader also touched on Lebanese politics, continuing his shame campaign against Lebanese lawmakers.
“We renew our call on the conscience of parliamentarians and political blocs to respect the Constitution which obliges them ... to elect a president,” he said, referring to the presidential vacancy, now in its third month. “Let us pray, brothers and sisters, that God’s hand touches these hearts, and liberates [lawmakers] from interests, alliances and dependencies, and from their divisions, so that they elect a president who is the most appropriate and best given the current conditions in Lebanon and the region.”
He emphasized that the church does not propose or back any candidate, but would support anyone elected to the office.