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August 10, 2014

An open letter to Ban Ki-moon on the fate of Mosul’s Christians

A version of this article appeared online and in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 08, 2014, on page 7.

A group of liberal-minded Muslim and Christian Lebanese professionals and academics has written an open letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressing grave concern about the latest persecution of Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul by the “Islamic State.” Here is the text of the letter prepared by the group, which prides itself on embodying the best that Lebanon has produced by way of peaceful pluralistic coexistence and mutual respect among the 18 religious denominations recognized in the Lebanese Constitution.

 

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

We are a group of Muslim, Christian and Druze professionals and academics from Lebanon who are old schoolmates and lifelong friends, some of us since early elementary grades. In all modesty, we constitute a representative sample of the finest that Lebanon’s peaceful pluralist coexistence among various religious sects has produced over the years despite what turmoil the country has been through in recent decades.

We have taken the liberty to write you this letter because of our deep alarm at what is happening to the Christians of Mosul in Iraq, and generally to the native Christian and other minority communities throughout the Middle East. In particular, these beleaguered ancient Christian communities of our region are struggling hard as they face mounting pressures and challenges from the same violent and intolerant fanatics. Confronted with forced conversions, or a humiliating life of collective submission, or the sword, Mosul’s Christians have naturally opted to leave just as other Christians in neighboring hotspots have done before them. This time round, however, it is unconscionable that the international community would stand idly by and allow the wholesale destruction of rooted communities solely because of their religious beliefs. The United States in particular bears an important burden in this regard since its actions in Iraq beginning with the 2003 invasion that rid the world of a brutal dictator unintentionally hastened the demise of a good portion of that country’s Christian community. Religious cleansing was not tolerated in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, and it should not be accepted in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East in 2014.

We do not hold the view that the Darwinian model of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest can be automatically transposed from the natural world of flora and fauna and applied to human societies; this was tried before in the form of Social Darwinism and culminated in the unspeakable atrocities perpetrated by racist fascism and Nazism with devastating barbaric consequences for all of humanity. The kind of open and liberal mindset that defines us as individuals and as a cohesive group we owe to years of osmotic interaction in Lebanon’s fine educational venues as well as through a thousand other occasions for shared experiences and the exchange of uplifting influences within the country’s rich civil society.

All this was made possible thanks to Lebanon’s distinctive climate of personal and societal freedoms that has set the country apart in a positive sense from its largely freedom-starved Arab surroundings. In spite of the horrors Lebanon has witnessed in its recent history it has remained a unique repository of that precious commodity – freedom – thanks in large part to the continued existence of an indigenous Christian community with a cumulative centuries-old vibrant tradition of freedom. And this same tradition has played no small part in shaping the emergence of a receptive, accomplished and enlightened Lebanese Muslim elite that is the pride of all Arab Muslims. Other embattled Christian and Muslim communities in the region caught, like the Christians of Mosul, in the vicious crossfire between warring sectarian and tribal factions, or between dictators and religious militants, also deserve a chance to live a free and peaceful life within their own ancestral towns and villages, and to savor the bountiful gifts accruing from such freedom. Lately, we have seen how the terrifying cynicism of certain regimes has been complicit in the spawning of groups such as the so-called “Islamic State” so as to present the world with a spectacle even more horrible than their own familiar modes of brutality. If free Christians and free Muslims die out, or embark under duress on one-way departures from the region, those who remain – both Christians and Muslims – will be the great losers in the long run.

Your Excellency, to stop the steady depletion from our region of this rare and sophisticated breed of free Muslims and Christians – the salt of the Arab earth, as it were, and the only guarantee of a brighter future for Arab children – we submit for your consideration the following practical recommendations for action:

First, the most effective way to combat outrageous abuses of human rights and human dignity such as what we are witnessing today in Mosul against its Christians is to shine the unrelenting international spotlight of publicity on these grave transgressions, thereby bringing about a global chorus of sustained condemnation of the perpetrators and their despicable practices. We therefore call upon you from the vantage point of your esteemed office to continue to speak out forcefully and to urge other influential figures and groups to do the same in defense of the suffering Christians of Mosul and all similarly suffering communities under comparable dire circumstances in our troubled region. We urge you as United Nations secretary-general to make good on the calls we are hearing to bring those who have viciously emptied Mosul of its Christians before the International Criminal Court to face justice.

Second, a long-term plan must be implemented and the required funding to achieve it secured to bolster and promote Islamic moderation across the board so that credible and authoritative Muslim voices everywhere can openly condemn, and dissociate themselves from, these types of abuses committed under the cloak of their religion.  Such a campaign should also involve both the educational and media sectors of the Arab world that play a crucial role in shaping public opinion and attitudes. This should be done in close cooperation with the regional religious establishments and with independent civil society institutions open to such an ambitious and liberal enterprise. The best way to undermine extremism’s culture of violence and death is to strengthen and celebrate the universal values of human dignity, pluralist existence, mutual respect, religious freedom, reciprocity, acceptance of the different other and minority rights.

Third, serious thought must be given to the long-term implications and dangers for the region and the rest of the world of takfiri ideologies of hate and violent rejection in the name of religion gaining a secure foothold in a volatile place such as the Middle East. Effective coordinated responses by the international community designed to nip this cancer in the bud should be contemplated carefully and executed boldly.  Drying up the sources that fund this sort of violent takfirism could be a good start, so those supplying the financial, material and logistical support to these radical groups for whatever geopolitical or strategic reasons should know that inevitably the tables will be turned against them and the fire they have stoked will rebound to consume them.

Fourth, a reserve fund should be created under United Nations auspices and with the help of individuals, organizations and governments of good will to address the urgent humanitarian and other needs of victimized persons and groups in the event that prevention does not work and persecution persists. Uppermost on the priority scale should be the security and preservation of actual as well as potential victims in their native lands and homes, and the cessation of demographic hemorrhaging whether in the form of displacements within the region or outright emigration beyond it. The burgeoning and scandalous Middle Eastern refugee phenomenon must be ended.

Fifth, everything possible should be done to protect from further erosion those few remaining oases in the Arab world such as Lebanon where freedom endures. The line of steady collapse must be held firm at the boundaries of these oases, and this can best be done by strengthening and supporting those elements and institutions in these oases that are living embodiments of this precious freedom.

If the rational and responsible steps outlined above are undertaken under your wise guidance and leadership, your Excellency, the world will once again feel hopeful that the turning of this inhuman tide is possible.

We thank you for your time and for the efforts you have expended on behalf of justice and peace.

Yours sincerely,

Kamal F. Badr, Medical Doctor

Amer El-Hage, Consulting Engineer

Mohamad Rustom Halwani, Civil Engineering Consultant

Atef Wafic Idriss, Food Scientist and Consultant

Anthony Iliya, Investment Banker

Hania Kabban, English as Foreign Language Teacher

Jamil I. Kawa, Engineer & Scientist

Richard K. Khuri, Professor of Philosophy

Habib C. Malik, Professor of History

Robert Moughanie, Businessman

Amal Zaroubi Moujaes, Businesswoman

Sami Moujaes, Businessman

Hani H. Nsouli, Political Writer

Toufic Saadeh, Real Estate Professional

George F. Sabra, Professor of Theology

Janan al-Awar Smither, Professor of Psychology

Fuad N. Ziyadeh, Medical Doctor

 

A version of this article appeared online and in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 08, 2014, on page 7.

Categories: Interfaith dialogue and relationships, Iraq, Lebanon, Peace, United Nations

Tags: christian, christians, druze, iraq, islamic state, lebanon, mosul, muslim, un secretary-general ban ki-moon


  1. I don't think any efforts to shine a light will be necessary. Those clowns put their beheadings on the web.

    by Richard Aubrey

    August 30, 2014

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