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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Many faiths gather for candlelight vigil in Birmingham for Iraqi Christians


By Megan Semeraz, Megan.Semeraz@oakpress.com, @MeganSemeraz on Twitter

Monday, August 11, 2014

In the wake of demonstrations nationwide and across the world, organizers are holding a candlelight prayer vigil for people of all faiths Thursday to bring attention to the plight of Iraqi Christians.
Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Bahais, Mendis, Buddhists and religious, community, civic and civil rights organizations are asked to join for the vigil at 7:30 p.m. in Shain Park in Birmingham, said Dr. Ramsay F. Dass, president of the American Middle East Christians Congress.
“(Faith leaders) met last week; we had 64 leaderships from the tri-county and we decided we have to start with many steps and one of the steps is to have the vigil in Shain Park,” said Dass, an M.D. who practices medicine in Oak Park.
Dass said the group is working to spread the word to all temples, churches, mosques and other community leaderships.
“Already many demonstrations took place in Macomb, Wayne, but we thought it’s time to involve the American public at large,” Dass said. “Very, very little is being said about what’s going on (in Iraq). This is a genocide (similar) to the Holocaust. ... This is a genocide in the making for the Christians and other minorities.”
Dass said he hopes the gathering will awaken the consciousness of local citizens to help. He said the aid to these people is coming very slowly as of right now.
“Here we have a large Middle East community, mostly Middle East Christians, but many other non-Middle East Christians have come to support what’s going on. You cannot empty a country of its own origin of people,” Dass said. “You cannot (get rid of a certain type of person). This is the 21st Century.”
The conflict began in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, Dass said.
“After that, the Christians were the first community to take the penalty and they’ve still continued paying for it,” Dass said. “We are morally and legally obligated to help those people — we started it.”
Demonstrations have been held worldwide in recent days to bring attention to the plight of thousands of Christian Iraqis, who along with other minorities, have been displaced from their homes — causing mass death and sickness.
Iraqi militants from the Islamic State group overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area so they did not face death, according to reports.
An estimated 70,000 Christians were displaced in Ankawa, where some are able to find shelter in schools and churches, said Louis Raphael Sako, the president of assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Iraq. Others are on the street and in public parks — causing poor conditions.
In Dohuk, there are more than 60,000 refugees.
The Christian villages around Mosul up to Kurdistan are deserted.
Humanitarian needs are escalating, as there is a lack of food, water, medicine, housing and funds. Dr. Ramsey Dass of the AMECC in Oakland County, said that aid is slow.

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