U.S.-based Preachers Fanning Muslim Fundamentalism, Warns Bishop

BAGHDAD, Iraq, AUG. 22, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Preachers from U.S.-based religious sects are triggering a backlash of Muslim fundamentalism in Iraq, says the Latin-rite Catholic archbishop of Baghdad.

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Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman, who has stayed close to his people before, during and after the war, said that «Christian preachers have arrived … who want to convert the Muslims.»

«They are those groups that harangue people on the streets and want money. They put a notice up anywhere and open a church,» he told the Misna missionary agency. «They don’t realize that they are creating an impossible atmosphere which, by offending the sensibility of the people, fosters the development of Shiite extremism.»

In fact, he said, Iraq’s ongoing problems may lead to problems for Christians. Instability and fear can «foster the growth of Muslim fundamentalist forces, as the civilian population more or less identifies Iraqi Christians with Westerners and, therefore, with the Americans.»

«I cannot see a political solution,» Archbishop Sleiman said. «Despite all their analysts, Americans have not realized that Iraq is a much more complicated country than they imagined.»

He added: «There are no security agents or police or any sign of a presence — even if generic — of public administration on the streets.»

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