Here below is a statement issued July 22nd by Bishop John McAreavey on behalf of the Irish episcopal conference.
The death and destruction that we are witnessing in certain parts of the Middle East is truly shocking and heart-breaking. I encourage all Christians and all people of goodwill to pray for an end to the conflicts in Iraq, in Syria, in Palestine, and in Israel.
Persecution of some Christian communities in Iraq has reached new levels and for the first time it is reported that there are no longer Christians in the city of Mosul. The horrific ongoing war in Syria and the terrible bombing and ground offensive in Gaza and Israel, have claimed the lives of too many people. Children and families are being particularly affected by displacement from their homes and destruction of livelihoods.
The images of death and destruction emerging daily from these places are all the more distressing when we consider the rich cultural and religious heritage of this region and, in particular, its deep spiritual significance to the Abrahamic faiths. The violence and devastation of these days shows the horror that is unleashed when differences of faith and identity are allowed to obscure the bonds of our common humanity.
The plight of persecuted and endangered Christian communities in the Middle East is a particular challenge to the whole world. Pope Francis has said: “Dear brothers and sisters who are so persecuted, I know how much you suffer, I know that you are stripped of everything. I am with you in the faith of the one who has conquered evil!”
I call on the international community not to tolerate the denial of basic human rights and to protect the safety of those trapped in the conflict zones, as well as those who risk their lives to bring much-needed humanitarian aid.
Pope Francis has said: “Prayer helps us not let ourselves be defeated by evil or resign ourselves to violence and hatred having the upper hand over dialogue and reconciliation”. I therefore invite everybody to join in solidarity with all who are suffering in the Middle East and to pray, both personally and at Masses, for peace and justice in these lands.
Bishop John McAreavey is Bishop of Dromore and Chairman of the Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace.