by John L. Allen Jr, Crux
In an unusually blunt endorsement of military action, the Vatican’s top diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva has called for a coordinated international force to stop the “so-called Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq from further assaults on Christians and other minority groups.
“We have to stop this kind of genocide,” said Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva. “Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t so something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.”
Tomasi said that any anti-ISIS coalition has to include the Muslim states of the Middle East, and can’t simply be a “Western approach.” He also said it should unfold under the aegis of the United Nations.
The call for force is striking, given that the Vatican traditionally has opposed military interventions in the Middle East, including the two US-led Gulf Wars. It builds, however, on comments from Pope Francis that the use of force is “legitimate … to stop an unjust aggressor.”
Tomasi issued the call in an interview with Crux on the same day he presented a statement entitled “Supporting the Human Rights of Christians and Other Communities, particularly in the Middle East,” coauthored with the Russian Federation and Lebanon, to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The statement has drawn almost 70 nations as signatories, including the United States.
Tomasi told Crux that in the first instance, he hopes the statement will galvanize nations around the world to provide humanitarian aid to Christians and other groups suffering at the hands of ISIS, “so they can survive and stand up for their own rights.”
Beyond that, Tomasi said, the crisis requires “more coordinated protection, including the use of force to stop the hands of an aggressor.”
“It will be up the United Nations and its member states, especially the Security Council, to determine the exact form of intervention necessary,” he said, “but some responsibility [to act] is clear.”
Tomasi applauded an initiative by France to call a special meeting of the Security Council later this month to discuss the situation facing Christians in the Middle East.
Thousands of Christians are believed to have been killed in various parts of the Middle East, principally Iraq and Syria, since the eruption of the Syrian civil war in 2011 and the declaration of an ISIS-led “caliphate.” Hundreds of thousands of Christians and other minority groups have been driven into exile.
To be effective, Tomasi said, an anti-ISIS coalition must include “the countries most directly involved in the Middle East,” meaning the Islamic states of the region.