by Doreen Abi Raad
BEIRUT (CNS) – Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs of the Middle East denounced attacks on Christians and called upon the international community to work toward eradicating terrorist groups.
The patriarchs met at the Maronite Catholic patriarchate at Bkerke, north of Beirut, for a special summit to address the crisis in the region. They were later joined by the U.N.’s special coordinator in Lebanon and the ambassadors of the five permanent member-countries of the U.N. Security Council.
“The very existence of Christians is at stake in several Arab countries – notably in Iraq, Syria and Egypt – where they have been exposed to heinous crimes, forcing them to flee,” the patriarchs said in a statement after the summit and meeting with diplomats.
They lamented the indifference of both Islamic authorities and the international community over attacks against Christians, who have been in the region for 2,000 years.
“What is painful is the absence of a stance by Islamic authorities, and the international community has not adopted a strict stance either,” the patriarchs said.
“We call for issuing a fatwa (Islamic religious ruling) that forbids attacks against others,” they said.
“The international community cannot keep silent about the existence of the so-called ISIS,” the patriarchs said, referring to the Islamic State. “They should put an end to all extremist terrorist groups and criminalize aggression against Christians and their properties.”
The prelates’ meeting was a follow-up to a previous summit. It also follows a trip by several of them to Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, to give moral and spiritual support to the flood of Iraqi minorities driven from the Ninevah Plain by the Islamic State militants.