Iraqi Conflict Could Be Seen as Religious Clash, Says Religious

Superior General of Oblates of Mary Immaculate Offers Warning

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ROME, DEC. 2, 2002 ( A war with Iraq could be interpreted as a conflict between Christians and Muslims, warns the superior general of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Father Wilhelm Steckling expressed that conviction when speaking with the Vidimus Dominum agency about his recent trip to Pakistan.

There are 24 OMI missionaries in the Asian country, who live in the northern zone, the Punjab, and in the western zone of Quetta. That number includes eight seminarians residing in Karachi.

The priest said: «Our work is mainly aimed at the poor in the desert zones of the country» and the Apostolic Prefecture of Quetta, which has been entrusted to the pastoral care of the Oblates.

«We are reaching the Muslim population, which represents 97% of the 140 million inhabitants, through schools,» Father Steckling explained.

«It is not easy» to live as Christians «next to fundamentalist groups, such as the Taliban or al-Qaida. There have been attacks,» he noted. «Nevertheless this reality contributes to strengthening the faith and the missionaries themselves, who can maintain contact with one another and with the universal Church.»

The Oblate superior added: «We have to commit ourselves to giving the possibility of a better life to the poor and to confirm those who believe in Christ. We do not need a new war in Iraq that could be viewed as a conflict between Christians and Muslims.»

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