05/08/2007, 00.00
IRAQ

Chaldean Patriarch: Christians persecuted by Iraqi government and foreign troops

After a long silence, the leader of the Chaldean Church has gathered and echoed appeals by bishops and clergy, calling for a stop to “internal and external persecution” that is affecting Christians in Iraq. He urged politicians not to stand by and watch, and also condemned US troops: “God does not appreciate what you are doing in our country.”

Erbil (AsiaNews) – The Patriarch for the Chaldeans, Emmanuel III Delly, has come out with a strong accusation against the Iraqi authorities and foreign troops and has called for decisive intervention from the government and international community to stop the haemorrhage of persecuted Christians from Iraq. Shortly after returning from a long stay in the United States, the head of the Chaldean Church denounced, for the first time since the beginning of the war, the sins of politicians and armies against the people, emphasizing the worrying conditions that Christians are in, threatened with extinction. “Christians are killed, chased out of their homes before the very eyes of those who are supposed to be responsible for their safety,” Delly said forcefully from the altar of the church of Mar Qardagh in Erbil, Kurdistan, where he celebrated Mass on 6 May. The persecution campaign undertaken by Muslim extremists in big cities as well as in villages has prompted the Iraqi clergy and bishops to make several appeals in recent months for the unity of the country and the rights of their community, which has always been a fundamental part of Iraqi society.

Delly gathered these appeals and made them once again in loud voice: “Today, Christians are persecuted in a country where everyone is fighting for their own personal interests. They have always lived in Iraq and over the years they have done everything possible to contribute to its development together with their Muslim brothers.” Delly said Christians would surely fight to ensure respect for their rights as Iraqis on regional level as well as that of the central government.

In his address, reported in Arabic on the internet site of the Patriarchate of Baghdad http://www.st-adday.com/, he described the two-fold nature of the persecution: internal and external. “Internal persecution is that perpetrated by Iraqis themselves, who are chasing Christians out of their homes and lands. Responsible for this persecution are all those in power who did nothing and are doing nothing to stop this tragedy. External persecution is that which has affected the very dignity of all the Iraqi people, whose mosques, churches and institutions have been destroyed or occupied, without any respect for their faith.” In this regard, the Patriarch recalled the case of Babel College; its former base in Baghdad has been transformed by American troops into a military base against the wishes of the Patriarchate. This could be seen as further proof that shared faith does not imply complicity between the foreign troops and the Christian community, victimized by the war as much as Muslims are.

As for the United States, Delly had hard words for its intervention: “The Americans came to Iraq without our consent. God does not appreciate what you have done and are doing in our country... Let us hope that the Lord enlightens these people so that they may stop violating the rights of all Iraqis.”

The strong stand taken by the Patriarchate, which has kept a low profile for all these years, was expected by the community that now feels somewhat more hopeful. “Now we can even die but at least we will do so knowing that we are doing something, not just waiting for our community to flee from the country or to disappear,” said a priest cited by the website Baghdadhope.

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