Iraq

Image via RNS/Adelle M. Banks

Receiving a prestigious human rights prize, an Iraqi lawmaker, who gained international attention for her oppressed Yazidi religious minority, decried the Trump administration’s “unfair” executive order on immigration.

Tim Breene 01-31-2017

When our desire for security is so great that it diminishes our humanity and our capacity, or willingness, to see the world through the eyes of another, we lose a precious part of who we were designed to be. Our hearts are hardened, calcified.

Ihsan Ibraheem 01-30-2017

Most parents wonder if what they teach their children is sinking in, if the values they try to model are becoming part of their character.

Zahra’a’s parents don’t have to wonder. The first thing she did when her family received their packet of relief aid — the first aid they’d received in three years of displacement and conflict — was to turn to our staff member, whom she’d never met before, and invite him to lunch.

Image via RNS/Adelle Banks

When President Obama signed a newly strengthened international religious freedom act on Dec. 16, the intention was to protect religious believers around the world.

But the freshly signed act is being heralded by some legal scholars as a different milestone — for the first time, atheists and other nonreligious persons are explicitly named as a class protected by the law.

Faiza Patel 11-23-2016

Image via RNS/Carlos Barria

This election season has been an anxious time for Muslim Americans. After the election, my Facebook feed was filled with Muslim mothers wondering how to explain to their children that the new president is a man who had proposed requiring them to register with the government, and called for a ban on people of their faith coming to the United States.

As we try to absorb what this election means, we must contend with how Muslims have been cast. For the president-elect, we are either terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, who are conflated with the threat of “radical Islam.” For the most part, Democrats too see Muslim Americans through a narrow counterterrorism lens.

Image via RNS/Order of Preachers, via Facebook

We write to you on All Saints Day to update you on the situation in Iraq. Remembering the Christians who were killed in 2009 while attending Mass at Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad. That was the beginning of harder times to all Christians in Iraq.

It has been two years and four months since we left Nineveh Plain. It has been long time of displacement, of humiliation, of exile. However, people always lived in hope of God’s mercy to return and go back home. We believed that God will not fail us.

Matthew Willingham 10-24-2016

Image courtesy Preemptive Love Coalition

With Mosul making headlines around the world this week, there are a lot of people tuned in to things here right now.

That said, from our vantage point on the ground and on the front lines of this crisis, there are a few things you might be hearing that aren’t quite right, or don’t tell the whole story — and we want to provide some clarity. They aren’t totally wrong, per se, but they’re off, and we think you deserve to know the full story.

Image via Mred32/Flickr

Maines joined the ranks of the great singer-prophets standing and singing against the war in Iraq, but her vocal commitments extend to many important causes including criminal justice reform, domestic violence, and LGBTQ rights. In 2013, she told USA Today, “I'm pro-gay marriage. Pro-gay everything,” and took on the NRA in a series of tweets. She has as many political opinions as #1 country singles, and has shown no signs of slowing down: She recently added Ted Cruz to the list of people she’s ashamed are from Texas.

Cathy Breen 04-28-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

How to respond to such pain? With action. Seated with others, in an unfinished building we visited in Dahook, was a young Yazidi man who is studying in the university. He plans to reach out to about 5,000 children on the mountain with hopes of educating them. I shared the story of my friends, the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul, and the fruits they are reaping from their literacy program with street children.

Erin Wilson 03-17-2016
Sinjar, Iraq

Sinjar, Iraq. Photo by Matthew Willingham, Preemptive Love Coalition

Chlorine gas has been used in Syria's civil war for years, but reports of chemical weapons used inside Iraq have been growing in recent weeks. Chlorine gas, mustard gas, and yellow phosphorous have all been discharged—sometimes against military targets, sometimes against civilians. In each case, the attacks leave telltale patterns of burns and physical damage.

Image via Reuters/Denis Balibouse/RNS

Former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky famously said that President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 “Evil Empire” speech was a turning point for him and other prisoners in the Soviet gulag.

“For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us,” recalled Sharansky in a 2004 interview.

He and fellow prisoners communicated the news between cells with taps on walls and toilets. They understood immediately that the truth about the Soviet Union would resound around the world: Reagan’s moral condemnation made indifference toward Soviet oppression unthinkable.

Shane Claiborne 02-16-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

This week marks 25 years since the horrific U.S. bombing of the Amiriyah shelter in Iraq. At least 408 women and children died.

As we consider what has helped fuel the rage and hostility of extremists like ISIS, we can point to concrete events like the bombing of Amiriyah. It clearly does not justify the evil done by ISIS, but it does help us explain it.

the Web Editors 01-20-2016

U.S. soldiers tour St. Elijah's in 2009. Public domain image

St. Elijah’s of Mosul, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, has been totally destroyed by ISIS.

Ryan Hammill 12-04-2015

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

I wonder if Pope Francis knows that he’s being used to justify bombing Syria.

After an all-day debate on Dec. 2, the House of Commons authorized the British government to begin bombing ISIS in Syria. Hours later, RAF Tornadoes attacked an oil field in eastern Syria.

During the debate, Caroline Spelman, the member of parliament who represents the Church of England in the Commons, noted that, “The Archbishop of Canterbury made it clear that, in his view, force might be necessary to keep the refugees safe.”

Then, citing Pope Francis, she said, “‘Where aggression is unjust, aggression is licit against the aggressor.’ These are views which I share, which is why I will support the motion.”

Ryan Hammill 11-19-2015

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

French president François Hollande announced on Nov. 18 that France will continue to resettle refugees.

Over the next two years, Hollande said that France would welcome 30,000 refugees from Syria and Afghanistan, among others. This is even more than his September commitment of 24,000.

Lisa Sharon Harper 10-20-2015

Image via  / Shutterstock

“U.S. military intervention is the problem, not the solution. Since the U.S. started bombing Iraq and Syria last year, ISIS has grown stronger.”

In the months since Cortright’s charge the world has witnessed millions of Syrian citizens fleeing the conflict. Having saturated the capacity of neighboring nations to accept refugees, displaced Syrians have continued north through Turkey and Eastern Europe, en route to Germany and neighboring countries. In September, Russia inserted itself into the Syrian military calculus, offering military support for, it claimed, the Assad regime’s fight against ISIS. Instead Russian bombs showered insurgent Syrian rebel forces. Recent reports confirm that Russia is actually helping Assad retake Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, from insurgent forces, with an Iranian assist.

In moments like these it is tempting to stand in solidarity with the disciple Peter, who tried to defend the helpless with military might. When Jesus was seized by temple police, Peter took out his blade and sliced off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Malchus. (Matt. 26:51-56, Luke 22:50, John 18:10-11). Jesus stopped him.

Kristen Lundquist 07-15-2015
Brain Illustration

Brain illustration, Maxim Gaigul / Shutterstock.com

National Minority Mental Health Awareness month is upon us in the U.S., and never has the scope and impact of mental health issues threatened to affect the long-term security of our country and world than now.

This year, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 10.8 million people are affected by the conflict in Syria, with 4 million refugees having fled the country. This is the largest refugee population coming out of any one conflict in over a generation. Similarly, in early 2015, UNHCR estimated that the total population of concern, due to the conflict in Iraq, exceeded 3 million people. Millions of people have experienced the unimaginable trauma of political and religious conflict and persecution in the Middle East, especially women, whom the Iraqi Ministry of Health determined were disproportionately affected by mental health illness due to the recent conflict. The scale and depth of the trauma demands a multi-faith, multi-sector, multi-discipline response, before it is too late.

Kathy Kelly 06-10-2015
Image courtesy Kathy Kelly

Image courtesy Kathy Kelly

Essentially, when Voices members go to Kabul, our “work” is to listen to and learn from our hosts and take back their stories of war to the relatively peaceful lands whose actions had brought that war down upon them. Before we'd even departed, the news from Afghanistan was already quite grim. Several dozen people were dead in fighting between armed groups. There was a Kabul hotel attack on international businessmen the week before. We earnestly wrote our friends with a last-minute offer to stay away, in hopes that we wouldn't make them targets of the violence. “Please come,” our friends wrote us. So we're here.

 
Jim Wallis 05-28-2015
DavidTB / Shutterstock.com

DavidTB / Shutterstock.com

What we have yet to hear from Republican presidential candidates or the habitual hawks is the appropriate spiritual response to the war in Iraq — repentance. Instead, we hear this defensive language: “Everybody got it wrong.” Well that’s not true. The people who ultimately made the decision to invade, occupy, and completely destabilize Iraq did indeed get it wrong. But so far, they have been unwilling to admit their incredible mistakes that we all now have to live with: the enormous number of lives lost or permanently damaged; the extremely dangerous exacerbation of the sectarian Sunni/Shia conflict that now rules the entire region; and the creation of the conditions that led to ISIS. Except for Rand Paul, none of the Republican candidates has been willing to admit that ISIS is a consequence of our complete devastation and destabilization of Iraq — leaving us with the greatest real threat the international community has faced for some time. Yet we’ve heard not a word of apology for mistakes or any spirit of repentance from the neoconservative hawks.

Photo via Nestor Aziagbia / RNS

A man in the Central African Republic shows a bandaged arm after an attack in the violence. Photo via Nestor Aziagbia / RNS

Despite much gloom and doom, there were a few silver linings in the report. Religious freedom and harmony have improved in Cyprus, resulting in greater access to houses of worship across the Green Line separating north from south. Nigeria witnessed its first peaceful democratic transfer of power earlier this year when Muslim northerner Muhammadu Buhari ousted Christian southerner Jonathan Goodluck at the polls. And Sri Lanka’s new government has taken positive steps to promote religious freedom and unity in the face of violent Buddhist nationalism.

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