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June 26 2014

Press release

Iraqi crisis deepens, the Christian population on the run

Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio: action is needed now to avoid a very serious humanitarian emergency

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ROME – "To do everything and in a hurry to end the cycle of violence that seems to pursue the goal of splitting Iraq into several parts and deleting the millennial presence of Christians in the Middle Eastern country". This is the dramatic warning issued by founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio Andrea Riccardi following the deterioration of the situation in Iraq where, after the capture of Mosul, in early June, the militias of Isis (the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), supported by other groups, began last night the bombing of the city of Karakosh.

In the coming hours, there are also fears of an invasion by extremists not only of the city of Karakosh, but also of the whole plain of Nineveh, the region until recently relatively quiet, where about half of the Christians remaining in Iraq live. The explosion of extremist violence not only threatens to put a definitive end to a project of religious integration and social development, based on the coexistence and cooperation between Christians and Muslims, which was a model for the whole country, but also to permanently wipe out the Christians off the Iraqi map. Hence the alarm sounded again by prof. Andrea Riccardi, who calls for a leap of responsibility from the international community and the Iraqi government. Riccardi also appealed to humanitarian agencies so that they "intervene promptly to the rescue of the people on the run that are located in Kurdistan: the humanitarian situation is becoming dramatic. Action is needed now!"

There is ongoing fighting between the Kurdish peshmerga militia, positioned for the defense of Nineveh and the villages of its plain, and Sunni extremist groups; there are many victims. The population of Karakosh is on the run from the city devastated by mortar fire. Local sources reported that 40,000 people (almost the entire population of the town, which has 50,000 inhabitants, mostly Christian Syrians) entered at this time in Kurdistan and are located in Ankawa and the capital Erbil. The images that come are dramatic. Thousands of people, families, children, are camped out in the streets and in public buildings. The displaced from Karakosh were added to the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria in recent months (about 250,000 people) and more recent refugees from the city and from the Mosul area (about 500,000 people). The humanitarian situation in Iraqi Kurdistan (which has about six million inhabitants) is becoming increasingly difficult. It is a real emergency.

The Community of Sant'Egidio, which has followed for some time the evolution of the situation in the Nineveh province and throughout Iraq and has received dramatic appeals from Karakosh during these hours, expresses its closeness to the many people on the run and in particular to the Christians and the Churches of the region, "who need to feel effective solidarity and closeness of everyone in this time of great suffering".

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