A growing and coordinated attack on the rights of transgender people is taking place through state legislation and sadly it is receiving support from people across the political spectrum. The attack is successful because its proponents are using myths about transgender people to cloak their efforts under a veneer of feminism and concerns about children’s health. In reality, this attack is anti-feminist and threatens the well-being and lives of not only the transgender community, particularly the youth, which is one of the most vulnerable communities in our society, but also of all of us.
It is necessary to understand where this attack is coming from and the facts that dispel these myths so we can all take action to protect the rights of transgender people. The media is largely silent about what is happening. We need to raise awareness and halt these bills. Solidarity is critical to stop the assault and protect us from being divided against each other at a time when we need to struggle together for our People(s)-Centered Human Rights.
This week, I interviewed Chase Strangio, a lawyer with the ACLU who is a national leader in the fight for the rights of transgender people, on Clearing the FOG (available Monday night). We discussed the state bills, the impact they will have if they are made into law and how to stop them.
Violence needs to stop. 'Outrage' over someone being different than you needs to stop. We're all individuals, we all share similarities and we all share differences. That's what life is about and there's no need to be threatened by someone being different than you.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Pope Francis’s historic trip to Iraq, including visits to the war-torn north, has been deeply significant. It is one that needs to be seen in the context of peace rather than politics.
The pope, as a de facto religious “father” recognised around the world, offers consolation for all people, not just Christians. His visit brought the triple significance of hope, courage and peace to those in need.
For his part, the Secretary-General of the Higher Committee, Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, stressed that the Pope’s presence in Iraq brought to light the religious and cultural diversity in Iraq and the region. It also showed how this diversity could be a way for achieving peace and cohesion among communities.
He further highlighted that the visit carried a powerful message that the whole world should support victims of war and extremism and not abandon them under any circumstances.
Judge Abdelsalam also said the Higher Committee will prepare a study on the results of the Pope’s visit, and will depend on it in its future plans and programs, to the benefit of all Iraqis.
The visit that Pope Francis paid to Iraq “will leave a great impact on … our country,” said Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Sako accompanied the pope throughout the March 5-8 visit, which went off without a hitch despite security worries and a second wave of coronavirus cases in the country.
The 84-year-old pontiff covered more than 1,400 km inside Iraq, bringing encouragement to its diminished Christian community and extending a hand to Shiite Muslims by meeting top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani.
Sako told Vatican Radio: “The mentality here is changing in terms of respect for others, the elimination of violence and fundamentalism.”
He added: “Iraqis are moderate by nature. They have been influenced by a fundamentalism coming from outside our country. I am sure that they will return to their good nature.”
[Scott] DETROW: So how was Pope Francis received last night in Erbil?
FORDHAM: There was a lot of joyous energy there, from the moment the pope first flew over the stadium in a helicopter to the drive around he did in an open-top vehicle, waving at people as he passed. And I think, speaking to people, they were quite overwhelmed that the pope had visited Iraq.
SAASANE HASAN: (Non-English language spoken).
FORDHAM: So this man I spoke to, Saasane Hasan (ph), said he never expected the pope would visit. And he was more moved than he thought he would be to be there at that moment. And he said he thought Francis was a brave man to come to Iraq despite safety concerns that deter other people. And a lot of people in that stadium have been through hard times. Many Christians were displaced here to Erbil when militants from ISIS took the nearby city of Mosul and Christian villages. And the pope in his homily spoke to their future.
Matteo Bruni: Thank you. The next question comes from Sylwia Wysocka of the Polish press.
Sylwia Wysocka (Polish Press Agency): Holy Father, in these very difficult 12 months your activity has been very limited. Yesterday you had the first direct and very close contact with the people in Qaraqosh: What did you feel? And then, in your opinion, now, with the current health system, can the general audiences with people, with faithful, recommence as before?
Pope Francis: I feel different when I am away from the people in the audiences. I would like to restart the general audiences again as soon as possible. Hopefully the conditions will be right. I will follow the norms of the authorities in this. They are in charge and they have the grace of God to help us in this. They are responsible for setting the rules, whether we like them or not. They are responsible and they have to be so.
Now I have started again with the Angelus in the square, with the distances it can be done. There is the proposal of small general audiences, but I have not decided until the development of the situation becomes clear. After these months of imprisonment, I really felt a bit imprisoned, this is, for me, living again.
Living again because it is touching the Church, touching the holy people of God, touching all peoples. A priest becomes a priest to serve, to serve the people of God, not for careerism, right? Not for the money.
This morning in the Mass there was [the Scripture reading about] the healing of Naaman the Syrian and it said that Naaman wanted to give gifts after he had been healed. But he refused... but the prophet Elisha refused them. And the Bible continues: the prophet Elisha’s assistant, when they had left, settled the prophet well and running he followed Naaman and asked for gifts for him. And God said, “the leprosy that Naaman had will cling to you.” I am afraid that we, men and women of the Church, especially we priests, do not have this gratuitous closeness to the people of God which is what saves us.
And to be like Naaman’s servant, to help, but then going back [for the gifts.] I am afraid of that leprosy. And the only one who saves us from the leprosy of greed, of pride, is the holy people of God, like what God spoke about with David, “I have taken you out of the flock, do not forget the flock.” That of which Paul spoke to Timothy: “Remember your mother and grandmother who nursed you in the faith.” Do not lose your belonging to the people of God to become a privileged caste of consecrated, clerics, anything.
This is why contact with the people saves us, helps us. We give the Eucharist, preaching, our function to the people of God, but they give us belonging. Let us not forget this belonging to the people of God. Then begin again like this.
I met in Iraq, in Qaraqosh... I did not imagine the ruins of Mosul, I did not imagine. Really. Yes, I may have seen things, I may have read the book, but this touches, it is touching.
What touched me the most was the testimony of a mother in Qaraqosh. A priest who truly knows poverty, service, penance; and a woman who lost her son in the first bombings by ISIS gave her testimony. She said one word: forgiveness. I was moved. A mother who says: I forgive, I ask forgiveness for them.
I was reminded of my trip to Colombia, of that meeting in Villavicencio where so many people, women above all, mothers and brides, spoke about their experience of the murder of their children and husbands. They said, “I forgive, I forgive.” But this word we have lost. We know how to insult big time. We know how to condemn in a big way. Me first, we know it well. But to forgive, to forgive one’s enemies. This is the pure Gospel. This is what touched me the most in Qaraqosh.
[. . .]
Matteo Bruni: The last is by Catherine Marciano from the French press, from the Agence France-Presse.
Catherine Marciano (AFP): Your Holiness, I wanted to know what you felt in the helicopter seeing the destroyed city of Mosul and praying on the ruins of a church. Since it is Women's Day, I would like to ask a little question about women... You have supported the women in Qaraqosh with very nice words, but what do you think about the fact that a Muslim woman in love cannot marry a Christian without being discarded by her family or even worse. But the first question was about Mosul. Thank you, Your Holiness.
Pope Francis: I said what I felt in Mosul a little bit en passant. When I stopped in front of the destroyed church, I had no words, I had no words... beyond belief, beyond belief. Not just the church, even the other destroyed churches. Even a destroyed mosque, you can see that [the perpetrators] did not agree with the people. Not to believe our human cruelty, no. At this moment I do not want to say the word, “it begins again,” but let’s look at Africa. With our experience of Mosul, and these people who destroy everything, enmity is created and the so-called Islamic State begins to act. This is a bad thing, very bad, and before moving on to the other question -- A question that came to my mind in the church was this: “But who sells weapons to these destroyers? Because they do not make weapons at home. Yes, they will make some bombs, but who sells the weapons, who is responsible? I would at least ask that those who sell the weapons have the sincerity to say: we sell weapons. They don’t say it. It’s ugly.
Women... women are braver than men. But even today women are humiliated. Let’s go to the extreme: one of you showed me the list of prices for women. [Ed. prepared by ISIS for selling Christian and Yazidi women.] I couldn’t believe it: if the woman is like this, she costs this much... to sell her... Women are sold, women are enslaved. Even in the center of Rome, the work against trafficking is an everyday job.
During the Jubilee, I went to visit one of the many houses of the Opera Don Benzi: Ransomed girls, one with her ear cut off because she had not brought the right money that day, and the other brought from Bratislava in the trunk of a car, a slave, kidnapped. This happens among us, the educated. Human trafficking. In these countries, some, especially in parts of Africa, there is mutilation as a ritual that must be done. Women are still slaves, and we have to fight, struggle, for the dignity of women. They are the ones who carry history forward. This is not an exaggeration: Women carry history forward and it’s not a compliment because today is Women's Day. Even slavery is like this, the rejection of women... Just think, there are places where there is the debate regarding whether repudiation of a wife should be given in writing or only orally. Not even the right to have the act of repudiation! This is happening today, but to keep us from straying, think of what happens in the center of Rome, of the girls who are kidnapped and are exploited. I think I have said everything about this. I wish you a good end to your trip and I ask you to pray for me, I need it. Thank you.
“Mosul Welcomes You,” read banners across the city when Pope Francis visited Sunday, the last full day of his landmark trip to Iraq. Most of the banners covered crumbling buildings or hung on walls still pockmarked by bullets and artillery. The pope arrived in Mosul by helicopter, flying over the “the rubble of houses [that] stretched out like a vast quarry,” as The New York Times’ Jason Horowitz and Jane Arraf reported from what used to be Iraq’s second-largest city.
Pope Francis later rode in a golf cart to what is left of the Syriac Catholic al-Tahera Church, in the heart of the hugely damaged Old City, on the west bank of the Tigris River. The Islamic State had used the church as a makeshift courthouse after it overran Mosul in 2014. When U.S.-backed Iraqi forces finally retook the city in 2017, the al-Tahera Church, like other churches, mosques and shrines around it in the Old City, was in ruins. The Islamic State had destroyed many of them deliberately, including Mosul’s main landmark, the medieval Great Mosque of al-Nuri, with its signature tilting minaret, known locally as “al-Hadba,” or the hunchback. The Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had declared his “caliphate” from the mosque’s minbar in 2014, in a choreographed attempt at Islamic legitimacy; in 2017, the extremists blew the mosque up as U.S. and Iraqi forces closed in.
But much of the damage in Mosul’s Old City, where extremist fighters had holed up in alleyways and tightly packed buildings, was also the result of heavy aerial bombardment by the international coalition against the Islamic State—mainly, the U.S. Air Force. To drive the group out of Mosul, stretches of the city were flattened from above by American bombers and drones.
Nearly four years after Iraq declared that war over, Mosul is still in ruins. With his visit, then, and the images of him leading prayers against a backdrop of the city’s seemingly frozen devastation, Pope Francis has probably done more to spotlight the enormous challenges of reconstruction in Iraq than any other Western leader, and certainly any American official.
Most of the reporting on Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq—the first by any pontiff—has naturally focused on an itinerary full of messages of coexistence, reconciliation and forgiveness. That includes his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in the 90-year-old cleric’s modest home in Najaf. As the highest religious authority in Iraq and a revered figure to Shiites around the world, Sistani holds enormous sway in the country, though he rarely hosts visitors or even appears in public. The pope’s trip, which had prompted some calls for a postponement or cancellation given the persistent security threats and rising risks of COVID-19 infections among the crowds of Iraqis that would see him, was also a major gesture of support for Iraq’s shrinking Christian population, which is now less than 300,000, down from 1.5 million when the U.S. invaded to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.
But it was in Mosul that another message of the pope’s visit came through, in the contrast of papal pageantry and urban destruction: reminding the world of what daily life still looks like for many Iraqis, especially those in Mosul. A city liberated from the Islamic State is still full of millions of tons of rubble, with more than half of its housing stock either damaged or destroyed. In the Old City, in particular, basic services are spotty, if they’ve even been restored since the Islamic State’s defeat. The list goes on.
While Washington may want to forget about its collateral damage, the Vatican and Baghdad just coordinated a very public appearance of the pope in Mosul that made clear what the costs of that war were. “Here in Mosul, the tragic consequences of war and hostility are all too evident,” the pope said during his prayer in the Old City. UNESCO is now leading a restoration of the al-Tahera Church, which it calls “a symbol of the diversity that has been the story of Mosul for centuries.” The United Arab Emirates is paying for it, and also financing the reconstruction of the al-Nuri Mosque—not the United States.
Mosul, Rasha al-Aqeedi Tweets (with photos), is "Where the Iraqi government could not masquerade its failure, inefficiency, and corruption. 3 years later and Mosul's historic Old Town remains as it was. The Pope sees it."
Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq this past weekend meant that, for a day or two at least, the Western media had to acknowledge the precarious situation facing Christians in the troubled nation — people who normally aren’t on their radar. These survivors of ISIS-led genocide in 2014 continue to suffer daily indignities: Even those Christians who haven’t lost their ancestral homes are officially second-class citizens.
President Biden issued a statement on the “historic and welcome first for the country.” The pope’s visit to the city of Mosul – “a city that only a few years ago endured the depravity and intolerance of a group like ISIS” — was highlighted by the president as “a symbol of hope for the entire world.” Will Biden be inspired to make sure the United States helps those survivors of the ISIS-led genocide?
The Pope broke his year-long COVID-19 lockdown to remind us — if we even knew in the first place — that Iraq was largely emptied of Christians during the violent Islamic State reign from 2014 to 2017. There were once 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, mostly made up of Catholic Chaldeans and members of the ancient independent Assyrian Church. That number has been reported to have shrunk to 250,000. Recent calculations suggest much fewer. At this rate, Christians in Iraq will simply disappear in our lifetimes. That is, unless those who remain are supported.
After a two year long impasse, the Iraqi Parliament enacted law recompensing Yazidi and other similarly stationed ethnic groups for the genocide and other crimes against humanity they suffered at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It is hard to imagine how any human being could be made whole after having suffered such inhumanity prosecuted against these people. The Iraqi Government does deserve praise for making a credible and genuine effort to afford them a promise of compensation and opportunities to earn a more promising and just future within their country and society in general.
Iraqi President Barham Salih tweeted the legislation, “is a victory for the victims [and] our daughters who have been subjected to the most heinous violations and crimes of ISIS genocide.”
The law provides recognition by the Iraqi Government of the genocide, which up until then was only officially so by the Kurdistan Regional Government in the North.
In August of 2014 ISIL attacked Sinjar district in Northwestern Iraq, resident to hundreds of thousands of Yazidis. Many who were able fled into the mountainous areas to escape the conflict only to consequently suffer exposure to elements, lack of food and water supplies, and the continual threat from homicide, abduction into sexual slavery, forced marriage, impression into military service, and other inhumane treatment by marauding terrorist forces. The first few days of the siege cost over three thousand civilian lives and beset their community with in too many cases years of humiliation, abuse and kidnappings.
The original draft of the legislation provided compensation for Yazidi women victimized by ISIL but after further deliberation on expanding the scope of benefits offered the bill was extended to other ethnic and religious groups, such as Turkmen, Shabak, and Christians of both sexes.