Growing fears for the safety of Syrians

By John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

Iraq, June 2010Father Emanuel Youkhana in his officePhoto: CAACN, Montreal – Wednesday, February 25, 2015 – Fears are growing for the safety of more than 100 people taken captive yesterday (Tuesday, February 24) as the extremist group Islamic State (IS) seized Christian villages in Hassake governorate, north-east Syria.

Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, who works in support of persecuted Christians in the region, received a telephone update on the situation from a contact in Hassake city around midnight last night and relayed the latest information in a message sent to Catholic agencies, including Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), early this morning.

He wrote: “The 24 families from Tel Gouran, 34 families from Tel Jazira, and 14 fighters (12 male and 2 females) from Tel Hormizd are captured and taken to the Arab Sunni village of Um Al-Masamier.” Up to now, the number of people making up the abducted families, has not been confirmed.

“They are alive so far, but the men are separated from women and children.”

An urgent need of action

Commenting on how some local Sunni Arabs had assisted IS, he said: “Um Al-Masamier is another Syrian example of what we witnessed in Iraq on how the Arab Sunni joining and supporting IS to attack their long years Christian and Yezedian neighbours.”

Archimandrite Youkhana went on to describe the latest situation in the various villages: “The 50+ families in Tel Shamiran are still surrounded. It is unclear if IS will attack the village? Can PYD [Democratic Union Kurdish Party] fighters change the situation before the village been taken by IS?”

He reported that in Tel Tamar a car bomb exploded, but no casualties were reported. Three mortar shells were fired into Tel Nasri from the other side of Khabour River. Again no casualties were reported.

PYD fighters have retaken Toma Yelda hill, which is of strategic importance. Archimandrite Youkhana wrote: “By now, only around 200 families are still in Khabour region, more than 100 [are] in Tel Tamar and others [are] in different villages not controlled by IS. Around 1,000 families from Khabour are displaced in Hassake and Qamishli.“

“His Grace Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel [of the Assyrian Church of the East] who resides in Hassake and hasn’t left it despite all difficulties, is doing his best to host and support the displaced. However, due to the lack of resources and the long years of the disaster, there is an urgent need of action to support the displaced families through the Church.“

Archimandrite Youkhana added: “Our thoughts are with the suffering people. We pray for an end to this long history of persecution in our countries.”

SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00138 Emergency help for 1200 families from






PRESS RELEASE: Jordan – Aid to the Church in Need supports Christian refugees from Iraq

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada 

Montreal, Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 – The Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has allocated $77 500 of humanitarian aid for Christian refugees from Iraq. This will support about 200 families from the Mosul region who have been taken in by the Catholic parish “Mary, Mother of the Church” in Amman (Jordan).


Parish priest Khalil Jaar said to Aid to the Church in Need: “The people arrived here with nothing. They therefore urgently need anything that could in any way be useful, such as shoes, clothing, blankets and medicine. Daily meals also need to be provided for about 200 families. No one can say for how many days or months they will be living in our parish.”

King Abdullah II condemn violence

According to Father Jaar, the families are no longer only living in the common rooms of the rectory; some have in the meantime been moved to flats the parish has rented in the surrounding area. “We are still taking in new arrivals every day. We have started renting small flats close to our church. We are housing at least two families in each of these because the rental costs are very high.”


In addition to meeting everyday necessities, the parish is also caring for the psychological needs of the children and their parents as well as organising discussion groups and prayer meetings, Father Jaar said. He explained that the Christians who fled Mosul to escape the militias of the “Islamic State” have experienced terrible things. “In the summer,” the priest continued, “the Muslim extremists who conquered Mosul gave Christians the choice of either converting to Islam, paying a tax or risk being executed. The result was a mass exodus of Christians to the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. A man told me how they were inspected at an ISIS checkpoint as they fled Mosul. Everything was taken from them, money, passports, jewellery and watches. Their three-year-old son was not even allowed to take his milk bottle with him.”Jordanie-3

According to Father Jaar, King Abdullah II of Jordan has reacted to the persecution by allowing many of the Christians from Mosul to stay in his country. “The king has proclaimed his sympathy and his support for the persecuted groups and has condemned the violent acts of the ISIS as not Islamic.”

Aid to the Church in Need supports the Christians suffering from ISIS terror both inside and outside of Iraq. The pastoral charity recently granted 5,77 million dollars of emergency aid to internally displaced Christians in Iraq, one of the largest individual programmes in the charity’s history.


Jordan – “We have lost everything”

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada



 Raed is in his mid 40s. But when he is telling his story he looks much older than that. Weeks of fear and uncertainty have left the mark on the Chaldean Catholic from Mossul. “We have been fleeing from ISIS for a month,” he says tiredly, and draws on a cigarette. “I left my home in Mossul on 18 July. Perhaps for ever. Who can say.”

Prior to that, the Jihadists had confronted the Christians of Mossul with the notorious ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay the capitation tax for Christians or face death, the extremists had declared. But an ultimatum from the self-proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim permitted the Christians to leave the district in advance. The price was that they must leave behind everything they had. “My house was marked with an ‘N’ to show that Christians lived in it and that it was now in the possession of the Islamic State. Then, one day before the expiry of the ultimatum, we fled. When we reached the ISIS checkpoints they took everything – laptop, camera and all the cash I possessed. That was the capitation tax that was due from Christians, they said. My six-year-old son is hard of hearing, and they even stole the batteries from his hearing aid. Can you imagine that?”



When Raed protested, the bearded men threatened him with heavy machine guns; either he obeyed or they would immediately take him away. “And it is not hard to imagine what would happen then,” he says. Having thus barely escaped with his life and that of his family – his wife and three small children – they found refuge in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region in northern Iraq. The city is hardly more than two hours drive from Mossul. “There we had to sleep in the open. There were so many refugees. The Church supplied us with the most necessary provisions such as rice and other food. But when Erbil also appeared to come under threat from ISIS for a time, I just wanted to get out of Iraq.”

The family man had to take a loan to finance the journey out of the country for himself and his loved ones. The destination was the neighbouring country of Jordan. They reached Amman on Monday, 18 August. “I am very grateful to the King of Jordan for accepting us here. Here, for the first time, we feel safe.”

As well as with Raed and his family, Pastor Khalil Jaar has taken about a hundred other Iraqi refugees into his parish in Amman since the middle of August. Mattresses and suitcases belonging to the new arrivals are piled in the parish hall. All of them came from Mossul and its surroundings. But it is not the first time that refugees have come knocking on his door.

The Catholic priest has been giving shelter to oppressed Christians in the Middle East for years. “First came the Iraqis after 2003. Then we took in Syrians trying to escape from the war in their homeland. And now a new wave of Christian Iraqis is arriving here. Our King has provisionally offered to accept some 500 Christian families from Iraq. If all goes well, about 1,500 further families will follow,” he says. “These people are totally exhausted. The old people just want to sleep, because they have been fleeing for weeks. The women and children cry a lot. Their experiences have been dramatic and they are completely traumatised. A young woman told me in tears how she had to watch while an ISIS man ripped the gold earring from the ear of a two-year-old girl, shouting: “That belongs to the Islamic State.” Naturally the people are scarred by this. The children cry when they hear the aircraft at the nearby airport. They think they are bombers. As soon as they have settled in here a bit, I will try to provide them with psychological help.”



ACN has been supporting Pastor Khalil Jaar and his work for many years. And today too, the Catholic pastoral charity does not leave him alone with his task. “I try to support the people not only in terms of their material needs. I am also concerned to give them psychological strength. We try to give the children distractions, by taking them to an open-air swimming pool for example. But above all I wish to strengthen them in their faith. This is the time to show that we are shepherds who care for Christ’s flock.”



Pastor Khalil also calls on the faithful of his parish to be generous to the newcomers. “At every Mass I preach that these are our brethren. The people should re-consider whether they really need all the things that they have, or if they could not share them with the refugees. And the people give help,” the priest says with gratification. “And one can always give a smile.” But Pastor Khalil is thinking beyond the first emergency aid.

The refugees will probably have to stay in Jordan for a long time before they can return to Iraq, or – as the majority want – migrate to the West. “The people need health care. And the children must go to school. And, as a Church, we must rely on our own resources. It is not easy to manage all these things. But providence will come to our aid, as it has done in the past.”

Iraq “Silence and passivity will encourage IS to commit more tragedies”

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


0807Iraq_Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of BaghdadBaghdad/Montreal, August 25, 2014 – The Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako has warned of the spreading violence of Islamic State (IS). “Silence and passivity will encourage IS fundamentalists to commit more tragedies.” The question must be asked, “Who will be next?” to be affected.  In a letter of mass appeal which reached the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), he urgently calls for “effective international support.” 

Also in his letter to “The Conscience of the World,”  the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church states that since August 6,   “an immediate concrete solution for the crisis we are facing,” has not come to pass,  while “on the other hand the flow of funds, arms and fighters continues to the IS.”  The actions taken up till now have produced “no real change,” and “the fate of the affected people is still at stake, as if these people are not part of the human race.”

He emphasizes the importance that the international community, principally the United States and European Union, “due to their moral and historic responsibility towards Iraq, cannot be indifferent.” In his view, “the world conscience is not fully awake to the gravity of the situation.”

The Patriarch pointed out that now, with the emigration of Christian refugee families, the “second phase of the calamity” has begun. In his words: “Iraq is losing an irreplaceable component of its society. (…) We do respect the decision of those who wish to migrate, but for those who wish to remain, we underline our long history and deeply rooted heritage in this land. God has his own plan for our presence in this land and invites us to carry the message of love, brotherhood, dignity, and harmonious co-existence.”

However, according to him, safety of the people in this region can only be guaranteed with the cooperation of the international community along with the Central Government of Iraq and the Regional Government of Kurdistan.







We are all Christians from Iraq

2003:  1.5 million Christians in Iraq

2013:  150,000 – 300,000 Christians in Iraq

June 2014:   Christians flee in their thousands from the jihadists in the ISIS controlled towns and cities


In just a few days, between 5 and 10 June, the province of Niniveh and the city of Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq fell into the hands of the ISIS forces (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).

It is estimated that over 500,000 people attempted to flee ahead of the arrival of the jihadist rebels, who want to impose Islamic law on the country. The Islamist group now in control is one of the most radical Sunni organizations and already has taken over control of a number of regions in Syria, a country already living through a nightmarish civil war.

Horrified, the world witnessed the flight of almost half a million people in less than 48 hours. This precipitate flight left these thousands of refugees in a state of utter powerless.


“N” for Nazarene

We are all Iraqi Christians! For the first time in 2000 years there is not a single Christian left in Mosul. The Iraqi Christians had to choose, following the ultimatum, between death and exile. Before they were presented with the choice between forcible conversion, exile or death, the Islamic extremist marked all the houses of the Christians with the symbol ن, often surrounded by a circle.

The symbol (ن) is a 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet and represents the letter “N” in our alphabet. It is the first letter of the word “Nazarene,” which the Muslims have used since the seventh century to identify Christians. This letter of the Arabic alphabet has been painted on the front of houses belonging to Christians, while on the front of Shi’ite Muslim homes the letter “R” has been painted, meaning Rwafidh (Protestants, “those who reject”).

Today there are no Christians left in the second-largest city of Iraq! Their hasty flight has left thousands of refugees with nothing. They have lost everything!


Let us pray together on August 6th – for Peace in Iraq


To make a donation to ACN for refugees

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.




“N” for Nazarene