NEW YORK - Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshe of Mosul,
Iraq, called on the world's governments to oust Islamic State
militants from northern parts of the country so thousands of
displaced Christians can return home.
Speaking with the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in
Need on the first anniversary of the Islamic State's takeover
of Mosul, Archbishop Moshe said that forcing out Islamic
State forces was the "best solution" for the 120,000
displaced Christians who fled the city June 10, 2014, and
nearby towns and villages that were seized in early August.
"The only solution that will make them happy and give them
dignity is to go back to their homes," he told the agency.
"We ask everyone to put pressure on the people who have the
responsibility to free the (towns and villages) as soon as
possible so the people can come back and live in peace in
their ... homes and continue their lives there," the
Archbishop Moshe, who also was forced to flee Mosul, asked
for prayers for the displaced Christians and "especially for
our political leaders to help them find the solution that
will allow us to go back to our cities."
The agency said the archbishop's comments reflect the
continuing frustration among senior Middle East clergy about
what they perceive as the West's reluctance to commit to a
full-scale intervention against extremism in the region.
The Syriac Catholic prelate also suggested that if Western
nations were unable to oust Islamic State forces, they should
welcome Christians and others seeking asylum.
"I am calling on the international community: If they cannot
protect us, then they must open their doors and help us start
a new life elsewhere," he said. "But we would prefer to be in
Iraq and be protected in Iraq."
Archbishop Moshe expressed concern over reports of the
destruction of religious artifacts and historic buildings by
the militants in the occupied Christian communities.
"All our heritage is in Mosul, in Qaraqosh, but especially in
the monastery of St. Behnam, which dates back to the fourth
century," he told the agency. "I have heard that some parts
of the monastery, which is quite famous and old and contains
thousands of Scriptures, were destroyed.
"But we have no news about our churches and monasteries
because we have no one left in Mosul to report on it."