05/02/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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Iraqi leaders indifferent to 'endangered' Christians

The rector of the Major Seminary in Ankawa slams the grave crisis affecting the Church in Iraq, which he blames on terrorists and fanatics but also the indifference of the country’s political leadership towards minorities. The number of Christians has dropped by half; only 200-300,000 have not fled their homes.

Ankawa (AsiaNews) – “Christians in Iraq are on their way to extinction, cut off from the country’s political process,” said Redemptorist Fr Bashar Warda, newly-appointed rector of the St Peter Major Seminary, which was recently moved from Baghdad to Ankawa (Kurdistan) for security reasons.

Through AsiaNews he wants to appeal to the government in Baghdad to make an effort to work for peaceful coexistence in the country, protecting its defenceless and voiceless minorities.

Father Warda’s message comes on the eve of the May 3-4 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, where the international community is set to discuss plans for Iraq’s future.

Iraq’s bishops made a similar appeal on AsiaNews webpage against what they consider a virtual campaign of persecution.

The clergyman is critical of a democracy that has “turned into a simplistic expression of majority will and the systematic violation of minority rights.”

In listing some of the aspects of the grave crisis that is affecting especially the Christian community, he stressed “higher unemployment among Christians, arbitrary seizure of properties owned by Christian families in Baghdad and Mosul, violations of religious freedom and freedom of though, abductions, attacks and sectarian threats.”

He wonders why, for many years, no one has acted. “The answer is simple; the indifference of Iraqi leaders,” he said. “They do not consider us as belonging to this nation, our human and intellectual participation as Iraqis to the country’s progress along with all the other religious groups that live here.”

“They take advantage of us because we have no outside support or our own militia,” the rector explained. “They know that all we can do is make appeals and complain. Politicians act convinced that our community is bound to disappear in a few years.”

In fact, the violence of the last few years has pushed many Iraqi Christians to emigrate, reducing the community by half. Although exact figures are hard to come by, the Baghdad nunciature believes that perhaps only 200-300,000 Christians have not fled their homes, compared to a million in 2003. Most have not moved abroad but to Kurdistan. Many however are seeking to reach the United States and Europe. About 100,000 Chaldeans alone are thought to be in the Old Continent.

Christians have some responsibility in the situation, Father Warda said, because they continue “to beg for the right to survive in the country. Christian politicians and religious leaders shelved demands for Christian rights waiting for the country’s normalisation. But it is no longer possible to wait because we have been cut out, with no adequate representation in the institutions of government.”

“Let us join our voices,” he said, “and remember that Christians are Iraqis too and have a desire and the right to contribute to the future of their country.”

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