Friday, October 17, 2008

Iraqi Archbishop: Christians Face 'Liquidation'

Iraqi Archbishop: Christians Face 'Liquidation'

Michelle A. Vu

Iraqi Christians set up tents for displaced Christian families in a soccer stadium of Burtulla, 30 kilometters (18 miles) east of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq.

October 11, 2008

The most senior Catholic cleric in Iraq warned that Christians in his country face "liquidation" if the Iraqi government and the U.S. military do not step-up protection for religious minorities in Iraq.

"We are the target of a campaign of liquidation, a campaign of violence," said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako, reported Agence France-Presse on Friday. "The objective is political."

Sako’s comment comes after police reported earlier this week that seven Christians have been killed in separate attacks this month. Police found bullet-riddled bodies of seven Christians in October, with the latest body of a Christian day laborer found on Wednesday.

Since the U.S.-led Iraq war in 2003, more than 200 Christians have been killed, dozens of churches bombed, and more than half the Iraqi Christian population have left the country, according to the archbishop.

He called on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite Muslim-led government to act on repeated promises to protect Iraq’s minorities.

"We have heard many words from Prime Minister Maliki, but unfortunately this has not translated into reality," he said. "We continue to be targeted. We want solutions, not promises."

Iraqi Christians, who have no powerful tribes or militias, are completely defenseless and entirely dependent on the government and the U.S. military for protection against extremists, he said.

"We believe it is the responsibility of Americans who occupy our country to protect Iraqis," Sako said.

He noted that six Christians had recently been killed in less than a week in the northern city of Mosul, including three Christian men who were killed within 24 hours.

"These attacks are not the first," the senior cleric said. "Unfortunately, they will not be the last."

Sako, based in the northern city of Kirkuk, has overseen the Christian community in Mosul since the death of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho in March. Rahho, the second most senior Catholic cleric in Iraq, was kidnapped by gunmen after Mass and found dead by the roadside in Mosul two weeks later.

"Those who carry out the attacks want to either push Christians out of the country or force them to ally with some political projects," Sako said.

But he called on Christians to not lose faith in the country, and stated that "Christians are true sons of Iraq."

Christians make up a disproportionate number of those fleeing Iraq as refugees to neighboring countries. Although Christians make up only three percent of Iraq’s population, they account for nearly half of the refugees leaving the country, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Christian leaders in Iraq and in the United States are currently urging the Iraqi parliament to reinstate a law that would reserve a quota of seats for minorities in provincial council elections.

The Iraqi Parliament had recently dropped the clause in its new provincial election law, causing human rights groups and the U.N. special representative Staffan de Mistura to criticize the decision and demand lawmakers to reinstate Article 50.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Christians continue to flee northern Iraq

Baghdad, Oct 16, 2008 - The deportation of Iraqi Christians from their homes in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul has been all too familiar over the past week after several were murdered.

'The forced displacement is an awful scene, because it affects the social fabric of our country,’ said Pascal Warda, a human rights activist.

'The exodus of Christians from Mosul these days is very organised compared to what used to happen in Iraq during the years that followed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, as it comes at a time when the government is imposing control over vast areas of the country,’ Warda told DPA.

Over the past two weeks, at least 12 Christians have been murdered in Mosul and thousands have fled the city after recent threats scared them and forced them to leave their homes and jobs.

The rise in the attacks has coincided with major demonstrations by Christian groups protesting the removal of Article 50 from the provincial elections law, which was approved by the Presidential Council last week.

'Armed groups and militias threaten Christian families to leave immediately or else be killed - something that has blackened the file of Iraqi democracy. This is why the government should work hard to stop it,’ said Warda, the second displacement and migration minister since the US-lead invasion in 2003.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is sending seven ministers to Mosul city to review the crisis and help displaced Christian families. Meanwhile, the interior ministry has increased the number of police in the city to protect the Christian neighbourhoods.

'More than one million Christians have migrated from Iraq after being harassed. More than 40 percent of all Iraqis who fled abroad during the past five years are minorities,’ said Warda, a mother of two.

Various communities such as Christians, Shias and Kurds live in Mosul along with the Sunni majority. The city is also historically a centre for the Nestorian Christianity of the Assyrians, and is the site of the tombs of several Old Testament prophets such as Jonah, Yunus in Arabic, and Nahum.

'What is happening in Mosul these days - the targeting of innocent people - grieves me deeply. I think it is a step backwards for democracy and a clear violation of human rights,’ said Warda.

The heads of churches in Mosul have meanwhile called on their followers to stay calm, urging the media to stop stirring up sectarian tension. They also called on Muslim scholars to increase efforts to calm the situation and urge citizens to respect principles of religious freedom, according to a statement quoted by the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency.

'We Christians have always lived with, and continue to coexist with, our Muslim brothers in the same country, in a climate of peace and fraternity and a spirit of affection and cooperation,’ the statement added.

Iraqi Christians constitute some 636,000 of the Iraqi population. Most speak an ancient Aramaic dialect. They live in the northern provinces of Arbil, Nineveh and Dahuk.

The head of the Shia Endowments Authority expressed concern over the repeated acts of violence targeting Christians in Mosul, according to a statement released by the authority.

The head of the Christian Endowments Authority, Abdullah Harmaz al-Noufali, said that a Christian delegation would arrive in Najaf city next week to meet with the top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistanti, noting that the visit has already been scheduled before the outbreak of the Mosul violence.

Monastery of the Holy Martyrs - Orthodox Monastery, Syriac Orthodox

 Have you stopped the monastery's new web site?  Come on by and visit, either on line or in person.  I love meeting new folks and make n...