Iraq

Brian Dooley 5-03-2017

Image via RNS/Brian Dooley

Tucked up near the Austrian border, about 160 miles from Budapest, is a small Hungarian town of 12,000 people. It’s a quiet place about three and a half hours, and two trains rides, from Hungary’s capital.

But the community has been split by the decision of the local Catholic parish priest, the Rev. Zoltan Nemeth, to allow some asylum-seekers to take shelter in a church building.

Image via DVIDSHUB/flickr.com

Ahmed Abdelsattar was 14 when Islamic State swept into Mosul and declared a caliphate in 2014. Fearing he would be indoctrinated and sent to fight by the militants, his parents took him out of school.

Three years later, he sells ice cream at a refugee camp for internally displaced Iraqis. His family have lost their home, and his father is too old for the manual labor positions at the camp, which means he is his family's sole breadwinner.

Smoke from an airstrike rises behind food distribution in west Mosul. Image courtesy Preemptive Love Coalition.

Every time more civilians are killed, it gives further weight to the idea that we have lowered value of human life — or at least, the value placed on Iraqi lives. Imagine the response, by comparison, if 200 American aid workers were killed in an errant strike. The seemingly low threshold for civilian safety makes the fight against ISIS harder, not easier. It makes ISIS propaganda more believable. At the very moment when ISIS should be gasping its final breath, these incidents inject life into their militancy.

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis on Wednesday said it was "imperative and urgent" to protect civilians in Iraq, speaking as U.S. investigators looked into who caused an explosion in Mosul that killed scores of non-combatants. Addressing tens of thousands of people at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, Francis said he was "concerned about civilian populations trapped in the neighborhoods of western Mosul."

Ahmed Pesher cries next to the destroyed houses where he says 23 members of his family were killed during fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State on the western side of Mosul, Iraq. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

Speaking from Baghdad to reporters at the Pentagon, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said an ongoing investigation may reveal a more complicated explanation for the March 17 explosion that residents say killed at least 100 people, including the possibility that Islamic State militants rigged the building with explosives after forcing civilians inside.

Smoke rises from the old city during a battle against Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, March 26, 2017. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

The military statement differed from reports by witnesses and local officials that said many more bodies were pulled from the building after a coalition strike targeted IS militants and equipment in the Jadida district.

Displaced Iraqi people react at Hammam al-Alil camp, as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily

The battle for Mosul, Islamic State's last major stronghold in Iraq, is now in its sixth month with Iraq forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition, air strikes and advisers now controlling the east side and more than half of the west.

Image via RNS/Screenshot from CNN

With his anti-Muslim rhetoric and planned travel bans, you’d think President Trump would be a favorite target for Islamic State’s propaganda. The jihadist caliphate in Syria and Iraq must be pulling out all the stops to slam him as the epitome of Islamophobia.

Well, think again. The extremist group that Trump vows to “totally obliterate” has hardly printed or broadcast a word about him since before the November election. The caliphate’s Ministry of Media acts almost as if he didn’t exist.

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 1-31-2017

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 1-30-2017

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 4-28-2016

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 3-17-2016
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 2-16-2016

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.

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