As the plight of Christians and other religious minorities intensifies under the spread of the Islamic State, Italian charities and dioceses are putting into action a series of initiatives to help displaced Iraqis. The Italian bishops have designated Aug. 15 as a special day of prayer for the persecuted Christians in the world. In calling the day of prayer, the Italian bishops stressed that they “cannot remain silent” in front of the Calvary of suffering people in places such as Iraq and Nigeria, where they are “branded because of their faith and targeted for continual attacks by terrorist groups, chased from their homes and exposed to menaces, vexations, and violence.” The special day of prayer is intended to “show concretely the Italian Church’s closeness to those who are suffering religious repression,” an Aug. 3 statement reads. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, who is president of the Italian bishops' conference, said Aug. 8 that the dioceses of Italy are ready to welcome Iraqi refugees. The Italian bishops' appeal was put into action by Italian Caritas: its 220 local branches in Italy have networked to assist the refugees. According to Avvenire, the Italian bishops' newspaper, Caritas Italy is giving its Iraqi counterpart assistance enough for 300,000 displaced families, and is supporting Caritas Lebanon and Caritas Turkey in their efforts to welcome refugee families. Caritas Italy's efforts are supported by a $1.3 million extraordinary fund allocated by the Italian bishops for meeting the immediate needs of the displaced. The international charity Aid to the Church in Need has recently offered a donation of $135,000, and gave another of $186,000 at the beginning of June, in order to provide food and shelter to the displaced persons of northern Iraq. AsiaNews, the press agency of the Italian Pontifical Institute for the Foreign Mission, launched the subscription “Adopt a Christian,” a collection of donations that will be given to the Patriarchate of Babylon, which will in turn deliver the money to displaced families most in need. As a response to the day of prayer, the Focolare Movement launched the initiative “Dialogue to unlock,” which includes an appeal for dialogue and a subscription for the Christians in need, which will be sent to Caritas Iraq. “We strongly believe that we cannot achieve any form of peace through the use of weapons, convinced that the right and lasting peace is better achieved through negotiations and dialogue, during which everybody is acknowledged as a peer in dignity,” an Aug. 9 Focolare release stated. The Sant’Egidio Movement also will honor the special day of prayer called by the Italian bishops with a vigil of prayer in the Roman Basilica of Saint Bartholomew, which is dedicated to the memory of the martyrs of the 20th century, and is managed by the movement. “In the basilica, the relics of two victims of the anti-Christian repression in Iraq are secured: those of Fr. Ragheed Ganni, killed in Mosul June 3, 2007 together with three sub-deacons; and those of the Chaldean Bishop of Mosul Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was kidnapped and died while imprisoned in March, 2008,” noted a statement of the movement.
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