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Enough talk about talking – Iraqi priest calls for action on ISIS

(Article courtesy of Catholic News Agency)

An Iraqi priest currently living in Rome said that those living the nightmare of ISIS are tired of hearing talk about dialogue and human rights, and are ready to see concrete action on the part of political leaders.

“Like many other terms, dialogue is abused like the words democracy, peace, defending human rights and many other words. (They) are profaned because everybody talks about them, but in their heart they have other intentions, so who will do dialogue with whom?” Fr. Rebwar Basa told CNA Feb. 2.

“I do not want to hear more from the people or responsible authorities about dialogue and peace. I want to see that people are happy and living a normal life. But what we can see now is that the whole of Iraq is in misery,” he said.

Each day that passes without changing the situation brings more destruction, suffering and complication to the situation, the priest explained, noting that those suffering the most are the poor, including Christians, Yazidis and other minorities who have no form of protection.

Using the analogy of a car, Fr. Basa said that if the vehicle has a problem that goes unsolved, eventually more problems develop. If those also go unresolved, the car must be discarded and the owner must purchase a new one.

“But if you have this problem with a country, what do you do? Do you throw it away and buy another country? People are very tired.”

Fr. Basa is originally from Shaqlawa, near the Iraqi city of Erbil, and is a member of the Antonian order of St. Ormizda in the Chaldean Church. He has been in Rome since 2005, and is studying Holy Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

Despite some recent victories against ISIS, Fr. Basa said that the current situation for those living under the Islamist terror group’s reign is not so different from when the militants began their siege last summer.

The situation is especially difficult for Christians, he said. Forced to choose between converting to Islam, paying heavy taxes for their faith or “death by the sword,” many have fled their villages and are living in other cities or in refugee camps.

Currently in the city of Mosul, there is a market where the property taken from Christian houses occupied by ISIS can be bought and sold, the priest said.

The houses, which are considered a benefit of winning the war, are being used as either living quarters or training centers for ISIS soldiers. Artifacts taken from Christian churches are also being sold in the Mosul market, and many ancient books and manuscripts which belong to the Catholic Church have been burned, he added.

Fr. Basa said that his former monastery in Mosul, where he was ordained a priest and studied for nine years prior, is now “a prison for women – most of them are from the Yazidi religion – who were captured and taken as slaves.”

Moderate Muslims also find themselves in a difficult situation with ISIS, the priest said, noting that while many thought the group would be “their savior,” the militants have in fact oppressed and abused them.

He recalled a news article he had read about 10 Muslim women being condemned to death for refusing to have sexual relations with ISIS militants, saying that because “this is a kind of jihad, (or) sacred war,” refusing the soldiers’ desires is considered an act against Islam, and therefore merits death.

“There is no law; nobody can protect the weak people or the property of others, so (the soldiers) can do whatever they want,” Fr. Basa said.

He added that low oil prices are compounding the problem, because “Iraq depends on oil,” and a loss of oil revenue could lead to desperate people who “would do anything to gain some money.”

With the increase in extremist attacks around the world, including the killing of three hostages at a café in Canada and the recent attack on Paris satire paper Charlie Hebdo, Fr. Basa said that the world is becoming more aware of how serious the problem is.

“When you have some problem that is away from you, that does not mean it will not arrive to you,” he said, explaining that if a person sees their neighbor’s house on fire and decides to do nothing, their house will also “catch fire and burn.”

Politics and economics are also factors in the conflict, the priest said, because the system “is corrupt.”

“There are very few who are very rich and many people who are very poor, there is no justice, no peace. They talk about human rights but in reality they are not interested, they do a lot of propaganda for that, but at the end it is part of business, not about the human being,” he said.

Fr. Basa related the modern situation to the book of Job, saying that although Job knew he was an honest man who was suffering in an unjust way, he decided to do good anyway, even if there was no justice.

“So I believe that every Christian, every human being should continue to do what he believes is good, although the world is so bad,” he said.

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