Thomas Cardinal Collins releases statement concerning Christians in Iraq.


On August 7th, 2014, His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, release the following statement concerning the persecution of Christians and minority groups in Iraq.

Statement from Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto

re: Iraqi Christians

August 7, 2014

Far away from the comfort of our television screens, tablets and newspapers, a

tragedy continues to unfold in Iraq. Islamist extremists, intent on eliminating any

trace of Christianity, have cast out tens of thousands of Christians, a people with an

almost 2,000-year history in the region.

Shortly after I began my mission as Archbishop of Toronto, 7 years ago, the

Archbishop of Mosul visited me and shared his hopes for caring for his

community. He wanted to build a little school, and we tried to help him. He also

told me of what his people were suffering even then. Now Mosul, one of the

oldest Christian communities in the world, is devoid of any trace of Christianity.

Churches have been desecrated and destroyed. Families have been told they must

convert to Islam or die.

Scenes unfold daily of residents forced to flee their homes, stripped of their

possessions, right down to the crosses around their necks, while others are

murdered, martyrs literally laying down their lives for their faith. In 2003, there

were an estimated one million Christians in Iraq; some suggest that no more than

150,000 remain today.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated that this persecution could be

considered a “crime against humanity”. Iraqi Christians have been begging the

world to help them. It is fair to question whether the world is listening?

From a distance, we ask ourselves, what to do? It is good that our Prime Minister

has condemned this violence in Iraq. We can urge the Canadian government to use

its full diplomatic influence to support the demands of the Archbishops of Mosul,

led by His Beatitude Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako. These faith leaders have

urged the Iraqi national government to:

• Provide full protection of all religious rights and those of other minorities

who wish to remain in their homeland.

• Offer financial support for displaced families who have lost everything.

• Compensate victims for damages and losses suffered by Christians,

providing immediate shelter and educational facilities to those forced now to

live in refugee camps.

In Canada, I appeal to our government to expand available spaces for Iraqi

Christians seeking refuge in our country, and to remove any bureaucratic

impediments to their reception. The Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, through the

generosity of our parishes, has sponsored 820 refugees from the Middle East, many

Iraqi Christians, over the past three years. As the largest Canadian private sponsor

of refugees from the region, we stand ready to welcome more, with parishes

mobilized to facilitate sponsorship and settlement at a moment’s notice. Let us

accelerate the process at once.

We would do well to follow the lead of countries like France, that have announced

publicly their intention to provide asylum for those who are persecuted. Canada

should take immediate action to provide a safe haven for those forced to flee their

homeland. In Iraq, religious freedom is not just being tested; it is being assaulted.

As always, we join in prayer and solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters

in Iraq. In the words of Pope Francis, “Violence will not win over violence.

Violence is won over by peace!” Let us pray for an authentic peace in Iraq and in

so many other troubled places in the world.


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