SA Catholics angry at Iraq persecution

Johannesburg - Christianity in Iraq is a tradition that goes back 2000 years and the "utter destruction" of dioceses, parishes and families because of their loyalty to faith is a crime against humanity, the Catholic Church of Southern Africa said on Monday.

"It is absolutely abhorrent that the Christian community of Iraq, a tradition that goes back almost 2000 years, is suffering expulsion from their country and martyrdom," the church said in a statement.

"As Catholic bishops of Southern Africa, we beg for religious tolerance in Iraq. We assure our Christian brothers and sisters of our deepest concern and we assure them that we have not and will never forget them."

The church said it admired many of the great religious teachings of Islam, particularly their care for the poor and needy.

"We call on faithful Muslims who believe in our common humanity to plead with those driven by extremism to cease their oppression of deeply religious communities and to seek that peace which Islam itself endeavours to promote."

On Monday, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that air strikes aimed at halting the advance of Sunni Islamic State militants in Iraq had been effective and the US was open to further requests for help.

The United States has conducted three days of attacks by jets and drones on jihadists in northern Iraq whose onslaught has displaced 200 000 people since 3 August, including all the residents of Iraq's largest Christian town, Qaraqosh, according to the AFP report.

US military planes have also been dropping food and water for civilians besieged by jihadists, with France and Britain on Sunday joining the desperate race to save them from starvation.

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