In a joint statement released Sunday, the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch, and the Syriac Catholic Patriarch commemorated the second anniversary of the Islamic State’s occupation of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, chronicling their atrocities and demanding the immediate liberation of ISIS-controlled lands.
On June 10, 2014 Islamic State militants captured Mosul and two months later occupied the Nineveh Plain, an Assyrian Christian stronghold in north Iraq, forcing nearly 200,000 Assyrians to flee their homes and villages.
The statement, dated June 10, is signed by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Ignatius Aphrem II, as well as by the Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Youssef III Younan.
The two leaders called the ISIS occupation of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain a “criminal act which amounts to an ethnoreligious genocide,” committed by militants who consider “all those who do not share their religion or believe in their confessional doctrines” to be “infidels.”
While the two men recognized with appreciation recent declarations that classified ISIS atrocities in the Middle East as “Christian genocide,” they sharply criticized the silence and inaction of the “international community” to liberate lands occupied by the Islamic State.
“Today, two years after the calamity that was brought upon our people, the decision-making countries and the international community remain silent and inactive towards the ethnic cleansing of a historical people who founded the civilizations of the area,” they said.
The leaders also recalled the historical importance of Iraqi Christians, calling them “the descendant of the martyrs who defended their faith, land and honor” and “witnessed to the point of shedding their blood.”
The two Patriarchs said that they “strongly denounce the absence of serious actions from the part of the international community and the Iraqi government to step up the liberation of Mosul and the villages of the Nineveh Plain from the terrorist groups.”
The statement noted that since its occupation of the area, the Islamic State has “destroyed our churches and monasteries,” as well as stealing “the properties and possessions of our people, spreading the darkness of death, destruction, and moral degradation.”
The two prelates end their statement by demanding “the immediate liberation of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain and the return of our sons and daughters to their land and homes.”
“Do not lose your faith,” they said, addressing the members of their respective flocks, “be encouraged and remain firm in the Lord Jesus Christ Who tells us not to be afraid, saying: ‘Take courage, I have conquered the world’ (John 16: 33).”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome