Catholics in Iraq Facing Persecution, Says Missionary

Spanish Priest Tells of a «Lawless» Baghdad

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MADRID, Spain, JUNE 4, 2003 ( Catholics in Iraq are feeling persecuted by Muslim fundamentalists, and Baghdad has turned into a lawless city, says a Spanish missionary.

Father Ángel García, founder of the Catholic organization Messengers of Peace, has just returned from Iraq, where he supervised a contribution of humanitarian aid to that country.

The priest said he witnessed firsthand the sufferings and hardships being endured by the people of Baghdad and Basra.

«Baghdad is a lawless city where there is even greater fear of being assaulted or attacked than of dying from bullets,» he said.

«Workers have not been paid their salaries for three months,» he added. «Garbage piles up in the streets, temperatures are extreme, and now there is a shortage of gasoline.»

The greatest efforts of his organization are focused on hospitals where, because of the lack of electricity, «incubators are useless and infants are put in plastic bags» to maintain their temperature, he said.

Of the Catholics he said: «They are scared, because they see themselves persecuted.»

In Basra, where Father García met with the Chaldean-rite bishop, two Christians were killed. The Iraqi clergy is also being persecuted by fundamentalists, he said. «Some have even had their crucifixes trampled on, because there is no security there.»

Father García is counting on prayer and the action of political authorities and international organizations during the period of reconstruction.

«We must cry out at the top of our voices for public order and security to be restored,» he said. «The time has come to speak out to win the peace in Iraq, because it has been lost.»

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