War Would Hurt Christian Presence, Says Bishop

Chaldean-rite Prelate Sees Economic Motives Behind the Tensions

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BAGHDAD, Iraq, FEB. 10, 2003 (Zenit.org).- War would make the survival of Iraq’s minority Christians all the more difficult, warns a Church leader.

Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni, of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans, made this observation in a book-interview with Italian journalists Riccardo Caniato and Aldo Maria Valli.

In «God Does Not Want War in Iraq» (Medusa Publishers), the bishop gives the reasons for opposing the war, which he says has economic motives.

«For centuries, no one was interested in us, but everything changed when it was discovered that there are enormous oil reserves under our feet,» he observed.

The embargo has not only impoverished the country but caused «mass emigration» as well, especially of Christians, he said. This trend would be exacerbated in the event of war, he added.

«The diaspora harmed many and we are witnessing the end of the Christian presence not just in Iraq but in the whole of the Middle East,» the book-interview reads.

There are 80 Christian churches in Baghdad, including 35 Chaldean parishes. Christians are respected and, «in general, we are well, including in our relation with those in power,» the bishop said.

Regarding Muslims, Bishop Warduni said the tensions that followed the Gulf War «enabled a new wind of fanaticism to penetrate the country.»

Muslims identified Christians with the West «and our situation has become much more delicate,» he added.

If there were a conflict, «we would surely have to face even more serious difficulties,» the bishop lamented.

«We Christians must continue to wait and pray,» to be able to speak about «our God, who loves everyone, and to find the right way to be able to touch the hearts of men, as Christ did,» Bishop Warduni said.

The 670,000 Christians in Iraq represent 3% of the population. Three-quarters of the Christians are Catholic, mostly of the Chaldean rite.

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