Christian Patriarchs: International Community Must 'Eradicate ISIL’

By Lauretta Brown | August 29, 2014 | 12:21 PM EDT

Maronite Cardinal Beshara al- Rai, who presided over August 2014 summit of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox patriarchs. (AP File photo)

( – “The international community must act and eradicate ISIL” (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), Eastern Orthodox and Catholic patriarchs said in a strongly-worded statement from Lebanon Wednesday.

“This is required from the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council,” the statement said.

The patriarchs met in the Maronite Catholic patriarchate of Bkirki to discuss the plight of embattled Christians in the Middle East, who have been targeted for annihilation by ISIL.

The meeting was attended by a number of Western diplomats and UN representatives.

Following the meeting, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai's envoy, Bishop Boulos Sayyah, read the statement aloud, calling on the UN Security Council to block financing of the terrorist group and exert pressure on Arab countries to condemn ISIL.

“We call for issuing a fatwa that forbids attacks against others,” the patriarchs declared.

The statement, which was translated in part by the Catholic News Service and Naharnet, a Lebanese news service, said: “Harmony must be restored between the components of these countries and we must stop using terrorists, supporting them and arming them.”

“It has become known that attacks against Christians are taking a dangerous turn that threatens them, especially in Egypt, Syria and Iraq where they are victims of crimes and are forced to leave (their towns),” the statement said.

Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Cyril Aphrem Karim (Syriac Orthodox Church)

“The Christians of Iraq have been detained by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and are being driven out of their houses. The sanctity of their churches have been violated and their houses have been bombed. They amounted to 120,000 and now 60,000 are present in Erbil (the capital city of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq).”

“But what is painful is the absence of a stance for Islamic authorities and the international community has not adopted a strict stance either,” the patriarchs said.

“The international community is responsible for ISIL's growth and for terrorism and the Arabs must exert pressure on the financiers of these groups,” they continued. “We must stop extremist organizations and Arab countries cannot remain silent against ISIL.”

“The international community must act and eradicate ISIL. This is required from the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council,” they added. “This disaster requires also that the international community and the European Union cooperate with the Iraqi cabinet and authorities in Kurdistan to free the Nineveh province and assure the refugees' safe return to Mosul.”

According to Catholic News Service, Cardinal Rai presided over the summit, which “was attended by: Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham; Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan; Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church; Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako; a representative of the Greek Orthodox Church; and the head of the Evangelical Council, Rev. Salim Sahyouni.”

The patriarchs were later joined by Papal Nuncio Monsignor Gabriele Caccia, Russian Ambassador Alexander Zasypkin, U.S. Ambassador David Hale, British Ambassador Tom Fletcher, Derek Plumbly, the personal representative of the UN's secretary-general in Lebanon, Jerome Kochar, charge d'affaires of the Embassy of France, and Chinese Charge D'Affaires Han Jing.

Following the summit, some of the patriarchs expressed their frustration with the international community's slow reaction to ISIL atrocities, singling out the United States for harsh criticism.

“America is behind ISIL, which is the crime of the century, and they want to brazenly displace Christians from their homes and churches,” Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako told local newspaper Ad-Diyar following the summit.

But Sako later clarified his position to reporters at Beirut's airport: “The U.S. is indirectly responsible for what is going on in Iraq as it said it would ensure democracy and the well-being of the people, but 10 years have passed and on the contrary, we have gone backward,” he said, as reported by the Lebanese Daily Star.

Sako also slammed Wednesday’s meeting with representatives of the five permanent members at the U.N. Security Council. “They were not helpful. We don’t want statements,” he said of the Bkirki meeting.

In response to a request for comment on accusations from Iraqi church leaders that the U.S. was behind the creation of ISIL, Cardinal Rai explained: "Seeing heads and hands [of Christians and other minorities] being chopped off [by ISIL] while the international community led by the U.S. is watching idly make us question the usefulness of the United Nations, the Security Council and the International Criminal Court.

"The international community has an obligation to protect the people and their rights," he said before leaving for the Vatican Thursday, where he is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and the rest of the  region.