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Faith communities in Geneva show solidarity with persecuted communities in Iraq

Written by the World Council of Churches
August 22, 2014

Around 400 people met at the Temple de la Fusterie in Geneva, Switzerland to participate in an inter-religious vigil on 20 August expressing solidarity with the persecuted religious communities in Iraq during this time of conflict in the country.

The event was organized by a number of local religious organizations, including Swiss member churches and Muslim organizations who regularly work in partnership with the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Deacon Maurice Gardiol, a member of the Inter-religious Platform and one of the organizers of the event, expressed his concern for communities in Iraq. He said the persecuted religious communities in Iraq and elsewhere should not be left alone.

William McComish, president of the Geneva Spiritual Appeal Association, said that all religious traditions represented at the vigil reject hatred and violence. Due to this common vision, persons of faith demand an end to the use of religion to justify violence.

Jean-Claude Mokry, parish priest of the Old Catholic Church of Geneva, shared similar views, saying it is not possible to remain indifferent to the situation in the Middle East, nor to those who are oppressed, no matter what religion, cast or creed they belong to.

A member of the Syrian Kurdish Yazidi community who has been living in Switzerland for three years recalled that several people were killed in his region by the militants. He expressed his concern about the situation in the region, given that a large number of people, including women and children have been abducted and killed in the conflict. What we see in the media is far from reality, he said.

“In Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, Christians are living without shelter, home and basic necessities of life,” said an Iraqi Christian.

A young woman from the Alevi community said that the militants in Iraq perpetrating violence in the name of Islam should not be associated with Muslims elsewhere. A letter written by religious scholars stated that people inciting violence could not be considered authentic representatives of Islam, reported another member of the Muslim community from Geneva.

Before the vigil, the participants each with a white rose in hand formed a human chain around the temple as a symbolic gesture of inter-religious reflection on peace and solidarity. While speakers lit a candle at the centre of the Fusterie, Cagdas Ozan, a Sufi musician and member of the Alevi Cultural Centre, sang and played the harp. A moment of silence and prayer was observed.

Contributions for humanitarian assistance in Iraq were collected on behalf of Caritas International.

News release prepared with reporting from Laurence Villoz of the Protestinfo – Protestant News Agency in Switzerland

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