10/27/2008, 00.00
IRAQ - VATICAN
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Chaldean bishop: appeal for Mosul, emptied of Christians

by Rabban Al-Qas
Urged by the appeal of Benedict XVI, Rabban Al Qas, bishop of Ammadiya and Erbil, asks prime minister al Maliki and the American forces to accept responsibility for the violence afflicting Christians, the result of an intolerant fundamentalism that has never been halted. A request to the Islamic world as well, that it condemn what is taking place in Mosul. Tomorrow in Erbil, a meeting of Chaldean bishops and of the Vatican nuncio.

Erbil (AsiaNews) - The situation in Mosul (in northern Iraq) remains incendiary. In just a few weeks, there have been 14 deaths and more than 10,000 Christians have left. The authorities are shuffling the responsibility to each other, while the carnage worsens. Rabban Al Qas, bishop of Arbil, has sent us this appeal, which we gladly publish. Meanwhile, the bishop also says that starting tomorrow, for three days, 12 Chaldean bishops will meet in Erbil together with the Vatican nuncio in Iraq to evaluate the situation.

Through the agency AsiaNews, I wish to call upon all men of good will, those who respect man, and all believers in God to forcefully condemn the crimes that are being perpetrated against the Christians in Iraq, and in particular those taking place in Mosul in recent days.

I have been encouraged by the appeal that the Holy Father Benedict XVI issued yesterday at the Angelus. The pope is the only one who is not forgetting us, and his words demonstrate how close we are to his heart.

His appeal yesterday also asked for a more decisive commitment on the part of "civil and religious authorities" to reestablish the rule of law and coexistence.

What is taking place in Mosul today is precisely a result of this immobility on the part of the state, together with a distorted, fanatical, and fundamentalist mentality.

This tragedy - which recalls the situation of the Christians in the early centuries - began immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Thousands of Christians and Muslim Kurds have been driven out, killed, kidnapped, forced to leave Mosul. Less than one quarter of the former Christian population has remained.

Threats, sanctions, discrimination, blackmail, Islamic propaganda in the schools, slogans on the walls, have driven even the moderate Muslims to stop defending their Christian brothers from intolerance. Once they used to open their homes to the Christians; now, out of fear of fanaticism and terrorism, they do not even dare show that they are friends or acquaintances of Christians.

What is taking place in these days is the result of a long silence on the part of the Iraqi prime minister and of the government of Baghdad, which has been unable to stop the wave of violence against Christians. What is taking place in these days is their responsibility, without forgetting the responsibilities of the American forces and representatives of the United Nations. What is taking place in Mosul is happening right in front of their eyes: the terrorists are killing, placing bombs in homes and churches, driving out the Christians without the slightest effort by the authorities of Mosul to defend those whose only fault is that they are disciples of Jesus Christ.

In the face of this sad and terrible picture, I renew my appeal to Prime Minister al-Maliki, who has said that "Al Qaeda is responsible for all of this." Instead, it is up to him, as the authority, to reestablish peace without shirking his responsibility toward the Christians. The constitution must recognize and ensure the rights of all, including the Christians. Until now, the only safe haven for Iraqi Christians has been the area of Kurdistan.

My appeal is also addressed to the Muslim world, that they may denounce what is taking place in Mosul, and so that love and respect of the other may make all men happier as they live in peace.

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