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CBCP head appeals for aid to Christians of Iraq, Syria

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Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Socrates Villegas (Photo: CBCP News)

MANILA, August 28, 2014–Catholic bishops have been asked to take up a collection to contribute to relief efforts for Christians in Iraq and Syria.

President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan issued the appeal Tuesday in a statement.

He said that while dioceses have their own projects in the Philippines, “we cannot put these ahead of the suffering of Christians in that troubled part of our world”.

For many, he said, the food and drink that sustain life are daily issues. “They rise from sleep each day to struggle just to keep themselves alive,” Villegas said.

“I appeal to our Filipino bishops take up a collection for the needs of the suffering Christians in Iraq and Syria,” he said.

“They have not only been evicted from their homes. Their places of worship — many of them, thousands of years old — have been razed to the ground by a godless rage with which no genuine religion can ever identify!” said Villegas.

These collections, according to him, will be sent to the CBCP that will turnover their remittance to the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Syria and Iraq.

“We must be generous, and the fact that we have our own needs here in the Philippines does not excuse us from the Christian obligation of sharing with our suffering brothers and sisters from our own need,” he said.

Ruthlessness

The archbishop’s statement is his strongest so far with regards to the situation in Iraq and Syria.

Villegas said many Christians are suffering because of the “ruthlessness” of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and militant groups “of like persuasion and brutality”.

According to him, thousands have been displaced and “must now live as refugees in often squalid conditions because of those who take it upon themselves to kill and to terrorize in the name of God”.

“We should be particularly appalled that children have not been spared. Among the bodies that the rampaging onslaught has left in its wake are those of hapless infants and children — they who are not deserving of any punishment or suffering at all!” he said.

Villegas also said that for those who use violence in the name of God brings an “awful message” that “religion divides, that faith is oppressive, that belief can engender so much unkindness!”

“In the Philippines, we will do our part, first of all, to counter the defacement of religion,” he said, adding they will respect the freedoms of all, particularly the right to religious belief.

Ceaseless prayer

Two weeks ago, dioceses across the country held a day of prayer for peace in response to the call of Pope Francis for Christians to raise a voice of ceaseless prayer for the restoration of peace in Iraq.

Villegas urged the faithful to continue praying for peace in Syria and Iraq.

“Let us be ceaseless in prayer, uniting ourselves with our suffering brothers and sisters, commending to the God who offers himself to us as our future their pains, their shattered lives and dreams, their bereavement and their loss,” he said. (CBCPNews)

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