1. Brownback picked for religion post.

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, July 27, 2017, Pg. A2

President Trump will nominate Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to serve as the State Department’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom, the White House announced Wednesday.

Mr. Brownback, a Republican who has served as governor since 2011, was a proponent of religious freedom during his nearly two decades in Congress, sponsoring the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Brownback will head the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department. Back in Topeka, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer would automatically become the state’s chief executive.

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for the Catholic Association, applauded the pick, calling Mr. Brownback’s commitment to religious freedom “unquestioned.”

“At a time when there is an ongoing genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, we hope and pray the Senate will act with urgency in a bipartisan fashion and immediately confirm Gov. Brownback,” she said in a statement.


2. The threatened future of Christianity in Iraq.

By Archbishop Bashar Warda, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq, The Washington Times, July 27, 2017, Pg. C28

I write on behalf of the remaining Christians of Northern Iraq, a threatened and persecuted population, which looks warily to the coming years.

In the three years since the onset of the crisis, when over 100,000 displaced Christians fled Nineveh with death at their heels and arrived at our doors in Erbil, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, our Archdiocese has played the lead role in providing care and hope for the vast majority of these people. In this ongoing crisis, we remain always grateful for the solidarity with our friends worldwide, whose generosity has kept us in a position of viability, albeit a tenuous one.

In saying this, I wish that I could tell you that our crisis in Iraq has passed, that our people can safely return to their homes, and that our problems have now been resolved. But that is not the case. This coming year may yet prove to be the most dangerous for us since the beginning of the crisis.

In Iraq, we Christians faced a persecution that not only sought to destroy our church, but also to destroy us as a people by forcing us, under threat of death, from our historic homelands, after which they sought to remove all traces of our culture and heritage. Our present efforts and hopes to return to our homes have received sympathetic words from Western governments, but so far little else.

We learn now, with great sorrow and pain, that lawyers at the United States State Department have begun taking quiet moves, in the dark, so it would seem, to rescind the Genocide declaration made over one year ago by former Secretary of State John Kerry. Once again, the Christians of Iraq find themselves on the receiving end of yet another ruse. One can only wonder what those behind this effort contemplate in terms of the irreparable damage being done here to the diminishing credibility of their government’s word.

As for our future, we look to rebuild where we can, and contribute as full citizens with equal rights under a legitimate sovereign government, as chosen freely by the people. We urge the governments of Kurdistan and Iraq to resolve the issue of the disputed territories of Nineveh now, and we implore the West to ensure that this takes place in a peaceful fashion.

Beyond all this, we ask those in power in the West to not turn their eyes from us. Iraq first embraced Christianity almost 2,000 years ago. Our population, 1.5 million in 2003, is perhaps less than 300,000 today. We are an ancient people on the verge of extinction, seeking only to live our lives in peace. Today we live our days in extremis. We did not arrive at this place on our own.


3. Kurdistan: A proven sanctuary and ‘safe haven’ for refugees.

By Robert A. Destro and Carole A. O’Leary, co-directors of the Iraqi Kurdistan Religious Freedom Project, The Washington Times, July 27, 2017, Pg. C29

The people and regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan have long played a vital role in protecting Christians, Yazidis and all religious minorities. Muslims and non-Muslims alike are free to practice their religion openly in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Of equal importance, since the Islamic State (ISIS) took over large areas of northern Iraq in 2014, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has provided vital security and assistance to almost 2 million internally displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees — mainly Christians, but also Yazidis, and others.

Currently, the KRG is providing sanctuary for an estimated 1.8 million refugees and IDPs [internally displaced person].

Prior to 2003, the Christian population of Iraq is thought to have been as high as 1.5 million. Today, their numbers are between 300,000 and 450,000, with most of the population, according to Christian sources, residing or seeking refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan.

In summer 2014, some 120,000 Christians fled in terror from the biblical lands of Mosul and the Plains of Nineveh, as ISIS threatened them with “conversion” or death. On August 7, 2014, they arrived in Ainkawa, the Christian Quarter of Erbil. Exhausted, fearful and hungry, these Christians turned to their churches and to the KRG for medical care, shelter and food.

To be clear, the only way to effectively protect Christians and other religious minorities from ISIS and like-minded groups is for the U.S. and international community to support the KRG in its continued efforts to protect religious freedom and provide vital services to 1.8 million IDPs and refugees.

Therefore, members of Congress and the Trump administration should:

i. Declare that the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is a “safe haven,” where all religious minorities targeted by ISIS are protected;

ii. Designate other areas of Iraq — such as the Nineveh Plain — as “safe havens,” where religious and ethnic minorities targeted by ISIS can return to their homes, be protected and, if they wish, begin their lives anew;

iii. Witness and record the evidence of genocide perpetrated on the Yazidis, Christians, the Shabak and other religious minorities;

iv. Visit Iraqi Kurdistan to see what the KRG has accomplished to protect Christians and other religious minorities who have sought refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan from throughout Iraq and Syria.

v. Recognize that the KRG cannot do this alone. The continued protection and welfare of IDPs and refugees in the Kurdistan Region — including Christians and other religious minorities — depends on the support of the American people and their representatives in Congress.


4. Deadline passes for Charlie Gard as parents seek more time with him before death. 

By Guy Faulconbridge, Reuters, July 27, 2017, 5:28 AM

A deadline passed on Thursday for the parents of Charlie Gard to agree arrangements to spend more time in a hospice with their ailing son before his death, though it was unclear whether any compromise had been reached.

His parents have since been trying to find an intensive care doctor to oversee a plan that would allow Charlie to be ventilated in a hospice for several days so that they could bid farewell to their son, whose birthday falls on Aug. 4.

A lawyer for Charlie’s court-appointed guardian had told the High Court that no hospice could provide care for intensively ventilated children for a long time, so the parents’ wish to spend several days with him could not be fulfilled.

It was to give them a final chance of making such an arrangement that the judge gave them until noon on Thursday.


5. Why Father Jacques Hamel’s legacy belongs to the whole Church.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor of Crux, Crux, July 27, 2017

Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the slaying of Father Jacques Hamel in Normandy, France, on July 26, 2016. Today Hamel is a candidate for sainthood, and there are several powerful reasons why his legacy is important

First, Hamel is a reminder that while many of today’s victims of anti-Christian persecution may not satisfy the traditional tests for martyrdom – a primary reason why Pope Francis just added a new pathway to sainthood called the “offer of life,” meaning giving up one’s life for another – some clearly still do.

In other words, Hamel illustrates that there’s no sharp dividing line between centuries ago and today in terms of the kinds of risks Christians run, and there are still plenty of traditional, old-school martyrs in the here-and-now.

Second, Hamel is also a reminder of the global nature of the threats facing Christians today, and for that matter all persecuted religious minorities.

Yes, Hamel was killed in Normandy, but his killers were inspired by a radical Islamic movement with its roots in Iraq and Syria.

In other words, Hamel is a reminder that the “suffering church” today isn’t localized in one region of the world, like the church behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, but can be found anywhere the conditions lend themselves to it.

Third, he’s a classic exemplar of one of the most profound lessons of the martyrs: Beyond all the heartache and frustrations we may experience in the Church sometimes, there’s still something so precious about the faith that, when push comes to shove, ordinary people, with zero aspiration to heroism, will nevertheless pay in blood before they let it go.