01/18/2005, 00.00
IRAQ – VATICAN
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Kidnapped bishop: Christians and Muslims are victims of the same terrorism

In an interview in November, Msgr Casmoussa, recently kidnapped in Mossul, illustrated the challenges facing Christians in Iraq.

Mossul (AsiaNews/CWN) - Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, kidnapped January 17 in Mossul by unknown terrorists, is a figure whose profound dedication includes commitment to dialogue and concern for his homeland.  In an interview with Catholic World Report in November 2004, Monsignor Casmoussa said that Western media had been giving too much coverage to harassment of Christians, noting that both churches and mosques, Christians and Muslims, were being targeted by terrorists.

He did acknowledge that Christianity in Iraq is facing its gravest crisis ever, but said that it is not a simple religious divide that it causing the problem.

"We do not see the present situation in religious terms, as struggles between Christians and Muslims. We are close to our fellow Muslim citizens," he said. "We have to pray, and continue to live with them. They are also facing the same situation."

He added, "We are also speaking to the Muslim leaders, urging them to make their people conscious of the problems -- during Friday prayers and on other occasions -- by pointing out that we are all one people with a common heritage and history. This is not just our official position; this is what we are trying to do every day."

Asked about the ways in which the violence has changed the life of Christians, Archbishop Casmoussa replied, "When you are in a situation like this, what can you do? You suffer, and try to go out and support the peace process. ... [Iraq] is our country, our home, we cannot leave it. We will suffer what comes in our way. The people find no other way. Despite all the problems, we lead normal lives ...."

Archbishop Casmoussa has headed the Syrian Catholic archdiocese since December 1999. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1962 and served for three decades as the editor of a magazine, Christian Source.  He is a member of the International Union of the Catholic Free Press (UCIP).
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