The Vatican has found its voice.
Pope Francis wrote a letter to Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, asking him to "do everything you can to stop the violence against Christians in Iraq". The letter, received by Ban Ki-Moon on 13 August, is the latest of the Pope’s interventions to stop the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.
It is with a heavy and anguished heart that I have been following the dramatic events of these past few days in Northern Iraq where Christians and other religious minorities have been forced to flee from their homes and witness the destruction of their places of worship and religious patrimony. Moved by their plight, I have asked His Eminence Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who served as the Representative of my predecessors, Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, to the people in Iraq, to manifest my spiritual closeness and to express my concern, and that of the entire Catholic Church, for the intolerable suffering of those who only wish to live in peace, harmony and freedom in the land of their forefathers.In an interview with the Vatican Radio, Monsignor Silvano Maria Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, appears to interpret the Holy Father's letter as an invitation to the UN to act even by recourse to force. He said:
In the same spirit, I write to you, Mr Secretary-General, and place before you the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of the beloved land of Iraq. In renewing my urgent appeal to the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway, I encourage all the competent organs of the United Nations, in particular those responsible for security, peace, humanitarian law and assistance to refugees, to continue their efforts in accordance with the Preamble and relevant Articles of the United Nations Charter.
The violent attacks that are sweeping across Northern Iraq cannot but awaken the consciences of all men and women of goodwill to concrete acts of solidarity by protecting those affected or threatened by violence and assuring the necessary and urgent assistance for the many displaced people as well as their safe return to their cities and their homes. The tragic experiences of the Twentieth Century, and the most basic understanding of human dignity, compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.
Confident that my appeal, which I unite with those of the Oriental Patriarchs and other religious leaders, will meet with a positive reply, I take this opportunity to renew to your Excellency the assurances of my highest consideration.
From the Vatican, 9 August 2014
What impressed me is the phrase saying that the situation is so tragic that it "compels" the international community to act. In fact, if we look at the Charter of the United Nations, we see, very clearly, that Article 42 says that the international community has the responsibility to protect even by force - which cannot be done by the local state, local authorities, who for various reasons are prevented to act or do not have the opportunity to do so, after you have tried all the ways of the law, dialogue, negotiation - to avoid evils like those seen in Northern Iraq in these days.Monsignor Tomasi recalled the situation years ago in Rwanda, similar to today's Iraq, saying that genocide was not prevented due to not having acted decisively.
But it is clear that "by force" is the ultimate solution, the final step...
[T]his is not a defence of Christians and other religious minorities, merely in an action of direct support to Christians: here we are dealing with human beings whose fundamental rights are trampled upon and for whom the local authorities cannot intervene. Therefore, the duty of the international community is to protect them. The problem is not, in simple words, a Church problem, it is a problem of humanity, of the human family.
Second, we must find ways to limit, to try to block the fact that weapons, financial aid and politicians continue to get into the hands of the representatives of this elusive state of the Caliphate, which so far has just been an excuse to create violence and kill those who are in disagreement with the leaders of this new entity. [Emphasis added]
Also speaking to Radio Vaticana was Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference. He said that the Vatican will help Iraqi refugees to find homes. He announced the Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Christians, tomorrow 15 August, the major feast Day of the Assumption.
Today, on the eve of the Assumption Day, the Archbishop of Ferrara Luigi Negri displayed on the facade of the Archbishop's Palace the ن symbol of Christians persecuted by jihadists in Iraq, with a message explaining the reasons.