Monday, March 16, 2015


Unattributed photo as to photographer, time, place, or identity of child.   Part of email message often under heading "Urgent prayers for Queragosh" or "Prayers urgently needed,"that states that children are being beheaded and crucified by ISIS.  It went viral from at least August of 2014 to the present.

I have received recently two disturbing messages from faithful friends, on the already horrible situation in Iraq and Syria , where ISIS has been a byproduct of our ongoing wars, direct and by proxy, in the Middle East.  The first was an email being circulated about ISIS atrocities, that although based on deadly truths in the these conflicts, appeared to stretch the truth, reaching to engage Christians' attention.   It came with critical commentary a couple weeks ago from Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy [I’ll forward to anyone interested].
Online Catholic put this title to the problem viral message.  URGENT email from Iraq asks Christians to pray for ISIS victims in Queragosh -- but is it a hoax?”  Their editors investigated, found the email to be a hoax, but the disaster of war in the area still very real.  Though the first version I was able to find [without the pictures] was from August 19, 2014, it is still making the rounds as a current crisis.
Claim--Prayers are needed for the city of Queragosh which has fallen to ISIS and is seeing Christian children being beheaded in large numbers. -- Image from Snopes--see site for fact check

Now there appears a similar new appeal, with the same general title, “Prayers urgently needed.”   A dear friend forwarded – and many were the others forwarding.
Prayer Requests
Information forwarded from Marla, spiritual director at River's Edge in Cleveland, Ohio:
  also Rev. Carl L. Pieber, C.M., Ph D. 

Our St. Vincent de Paul Society in Syria has been captured by ISIS. It is serous. The message came from our Central Headquarters in Rome: 
Urgent Prayer Request from Sister Monica, Daughter of Charity in Paris:
 "Late Sunday afternoon on 1 March 2015, I received a message from M. Francoise, a delegate of the International Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and I managed to reach her by telephone. She was leaving for Paris, and collapsed at the news she had just received:  Members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Syria were kidnapped, along with their wives and children. The children were isolated and put into cages. Adults who do not deny their faith will be decapitated, and their children burned alive in the cages. [my boldface]   M. Francoise had been in regular contact with several of them before all this occurred. She asked me to transmit the news and make a fervent appeal for prayers for these people, and all who are held hostage.
Let us remain fervently united in prayer, and have as our intention the welfare of all brothers and sisters in our Christian faith who are being held hostage.  Mother Mary, please console them, and protect them all from harm!
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Syrian refugees near the Turkish border (CNS) - published in the Catholic Herald, U.K.  3-10-15

Yes let us pray fervently for an end to all war, as all our recent Popes have pleaded.   And may we know the truth, for the truth will set us free, trusting in the Lord, and not the rush to war. 

The Paris Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s webpage, the source of this story, had warned -- “also the greatest caution is required on sharing this dramatic information.”  [because of its unverified nature]
March 4th, 2015

One of the first items to pop up when I did a google search for “Members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Syria were kidnapped” was an article titled, ISIS Kidnaps Catholics in Syria, Threatens to Decapitate Adults and Burn Their Children Alive in Cages” from CNSNews.  I thought this would be a most credible source, as the Catholic News Service has a long and distinguished history.  In fact this was an unrelated organization which strives to counterspin what it feels is the inherent left-wing bias of mainstream media. [see below]**  They certainly had no caution on sharing this dramatic information.

The most credible report I’ve found thus far, from the more trustworthy CNS ---  excerpts.
"We're waiting for news," Helene Afriat, communications officer for the International Confederation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris, told Catholic News Service, March 13. She added that communication with people in the Mideast was "very difficult."
She also said the Society has not been able to verify or confirm reports that those kidnapped were being threatened with decapitation and their children were being held in cages.
The Society announced on its website March 4 that "several colleagues," along with "women and children," were kidnapped in the province of Hassakeh in northeastern Syria.
The website announcement called for prayers and said, "At the moment we have no details, also the greatest caution is required on sharing this dramatic information."
In an interview more than a week later, Afriat said nothing had changed.
"The surrounding villages have been evacuated, the people have fled, communication is very difficult and we have not been able to establish contact with our volunteers and correspondents working locally," she said. "The people who reported these recent kidnappings were unable to give us more precise details."
Afriat also warned of the danger in circulating unverified claims.

Image a St. Patrick's Day gift sent by Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

Because the people who reported the kidnappings [sources in this area of multiple militias make a big difference] have provided no verification, there is the possibility that SSVP workers in that area are not still captive.  Many of the recent Assyrian Christians held hostage have been released.   A CNN report states that it was an Islamic judge that made the decision ordering ISIS to free them. Under Sharia law he ruled they were not guilty of anything.

It’s yet to be determined how many, whom, and whether, Catholics were even among those held captive.  And it must be remembered that “Unlike most other churches that trace their origins to antiquity, the modern Assyrian Church of the East is not in communion with any other churches, either Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, or Catholic.”  [from Wikipedia, verified by Encyclopedia Britannica].   The plight of all these people, caught in a terrible war zone is never to be minimized.  But we much search for the truth, and not be led astray towards even deeper war and division.

There is some likelihood that this yet to be verified story was planted in the Catholic online media space to serve as a goad to further war support among Catholics and other Christians.  During the Iran-Contra hearings which exposed some of the manipulations that favored our expanded war in Central America in the 1980’s, the term, “dysinformation” came to the light of day.   It is one of the many power tools that politicians use to march us off to war, for the profit of a few, and the suffering of many.

Image from rock band of same name

Ancient hatreds plus an infinity of weapons supply equals the guaranteed upsurge [asymptote] of suffering and death.  The sources of many war stories, on all sides, are often intent on inflaming war fever to benefit their cause.   In the case of Syria, many of the information sources, such as the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a Christian group called the Syriac Military Council, are allied with militias in the areas of ferocious fighting.  And the Syrian state apparatus has its own spin, while our own military industry seems to constantly help create new opportunities, backing multiple sides of the coin.
Beware of the Father of all Lies, big and little, especially when they justify violence, against the child in the womb, the neighbor, the enemy—the ways that lead away from Jesus, towards endless war.  “Chain letters” and their facsimiles, can be chained to untruths, binding even the “strong man’s” wisdom.
I will certainly pray for the people caught on all sides of this brutal war, and any St. Vincent de Paul Society workers that may have been kidnapped as part of a reported 220 Assyrian Christians taken by ISIS, now apparently most released.  And let us pray for an end to the confusion, the fog of war. 
We can break this chain that dictates -- dealing death is the only certain way to protect life.

Christians -- see how they love even their enemies.  The only true effective weapon that defends one body and soul, is a good Gospel word spoken from the heart, and a good deed that springs from God’s mercy.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a Christian group called the Syriac Military Council said heavy clashes against militants in the area were continuing. The group, which is fighting alongside Kurds and Arab militiamen, said three of its fighters were killed in Tal Hurmiz Tuesday.
"The Syriac Military Council and the Khabur Guards are determined to fight back ISIS, to regain the Assyrian villages and to release the Assyrian Christian hostages from ISIS," it said in a statement, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State group.

Nuncio to Damascus: IS releases 52 abducted Christian families without a ransom payment

** was launched on June 16, 1998 as a news source for individuals, news organizations and broadcasters who put a higher premium on balance than spin and seek news that’s ignored or under-reported as a result of media bias by omission.
Since 1987, the Media Research Center [CNSNews parent organization] has been the nation’s premier media watchdog. We don’t endorse politicians and we don’t lobby for legislation. MRC’s sole mission is to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media. This makes the MRC’s work unique within the conservative movement.
The Media Research Center’s unwavering commitment to neutralizing left-wing bias in the news media and popular culture has influenced how millions of Americans perceive so-called objective reporting.

Assyrian Christians Demand Arms, Support to Fight Isis As Hundreds Kidnapped
Assyrians in California to pray for those kidnapped, threatened by ISIS
ISIS releases some Christian hostages -- but why -
3-10-15 - Reports ISIS release some Assyrian Christian families, but others still held

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