(Naharnet) - The bishops of Oriental Churches on Thursday demanded Muslim religious authorities to issue fatwas banning attacks against Christians and “other innocents” in the East, urging also parties financing terrorist organizations “to immediately stop arming” these extremist groups.
“We call on Muslim religious authorities, Sunnis and Shiites, to issue fatwas banning attacks against Christians and other innocents,” Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar said after a congregation of the bishops of Oriental Churches at Diman, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's summer seat.
The conferees discussed the situation of Christians in Iraq and Syria, amid the rising threat of extremist jihadists who are occupying large parts of these neighboring countries and persecuting Christian minorities there, giving them a choice between converting to Islam or leaving their lands.
“The conferees discussed the rise of takfiri groups that are violating the sanctity of churches and attacking citizens,” Matar said.
He continued: “The situation reached a stage in which Christians were wrongly exiled from the lands of their ancestors without any justification. The expulsion of Christians from Mosul and Nineveh Province in Iraq is not an accident or a forced migration out of fear, but it is a decision taken by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and which is contrary to international charters.”
“We strongly deplore the expulsion of our sons from Mosul and Nineveh, regions that were known for religious coexistence,” the bishops said.
Commenting also on the suffering of Christians in Syria, the clerics slammed as a “violation of human rights” the “assassinations and the attacks against religious minorities in the village of Maaloula.”
"ISIL's decision is shocking and it is considered discrimination,” the bishops' statement declared.
They then called on the international community and Muslim and Arab leaders to deplore the treatment of Christians in Iraq and Syria, adding that “it is a shame that the Islamic and Arab stance is still weak in this regard and that it does not reflect the religious diversity of the region.”
"Christians of the East are subjected to prosecution amid international silence, and this is a shame,” they said.
"The International Criminal Court's General Prosecutor has to immediately launch a probe and draw an end to what is happening,” they stated.
In a related matter, the bishops criticized European countries' support for the arrival of the exiled Christian minorities of the East.
“We reject this because the U.N. Security Council should take a strict decision to compel the people who own the land to return back. We are not asking for anyone's protection but we have rights and we consider that nations should prevent any demographic change” in the region.
The conferees also demanded regimes that “support, organize and arm terrorist organizations to stop their activities,” considering that religious extremism “will have negative consequences on those who did not resist it.”
“Revealing who are the parties financing these extremist groups is a necessity,” they announced.
The Oriental Churches' bishops also tackled the abduction of bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, who were kidnapped in Syria at the end of April 2013.
“For one year and three months we have been waiting for the kidnapped bishops' return and we still insist that the reaction of the international community was not enough. We question the indifference towards this issue,” they said.
After the bishops declared their stance on the latest developments in the region, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri released a statement hailing their call for rescuing the Christians of the East and considered that it should move “all Arab and Islamic leaders and regimes.”
Calls for issuing fatwas banning attacks against Christians “should be adopted by all moderate regimes and leaders who are responsible for resisting to this ideological and dogmatic invasion that harms the essence of Islam,” Hariri said.
"How can the international community overlook the turmoil in the East and leave behind its values of civilization and religious coexistence?” he asked.
The Sunni leader then called on the Arab League to assume its responsibilities in the respect and to “find means to cooperate with the international community to end the ongoing crime in Iraq that aims at eliminating the presence of Arab Christians in the East, and at accusing Islam and Muslims of being behind this racist transgression.”
"These acts only harm Islam," he said.