THE alarm sounded by the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Amel Shamon Nona, is chilling. Interviewed on August 9 by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, he warned that all Christians around would face untold violence from Islamists the way, if not worse, his diocese is undergoing now. The Islamic State, a caliphate recently established in Iraq and Syria under its self-proclaimed leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is violently persecuting all non-Sunni Muslims -- Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims, forcing them to convert, leave or be killed.
In the interview, Archbishop Nona said: "Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future... Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever-growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles... You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values... If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home."
Too alarming indeed, to the point that one cannot easily brush off as a subjective overstatement of an alarmist. Interviewed over Vatican Radio recently, the archbishop stressed further that the Islamic State militants "think that anyone who is different from them does not deserve to live... They represent a great threat to humanity. These groups don't just want to conquer a piece of territory and stay there. Their objective is the whole world."
Cardinal Fernando Feloni who was nuncio to the Philippines in 2006 and presently Pope Francis' personal envoy to the suffering people of Iraq is pleading from the international community to liberate villages controlled by the Islamic State and to provide the displaced with international protection. The Yezidi community is "suffering terrible because of the deaths they have had, the kidnapping of their women and their houses being stolen. They don't know where to go," the Cardinal said. According to the United Nations, there are more than 1.2 million internally displaced persons in Irag, and at least 10,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria as a result of the Islamic State.
Pope Francis himself has called for prayer and action. He said the use of force can be justified to stop "unjust aggressors" such as the Islamic State militants. He appealed to the U.N. to "take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway in Iraq."
In a recent interview, the Pope said: "In these cases where there is unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb 'stop'; I don't say bomb, make war -- stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest. A single nation cannot judge how to stop this, how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there arose the idea of the United Nations. That is where we should discuss: 'Is there an unjust aggressor? It seems there is. How do we stop him?' But only that, nothing more."
The genocide in Iraq will have hard repercussions on the contemporary givens of interreligious dialogue--especially when the agenda of the unjust aggressor is more than those of an ordinary aggressor.