British Cardinal Issues SOS Over Iraqi Constitution

Urges Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to Intervene to Protect Christian Rights

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LONDON, SEPT. 5, 2005 ( Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor urged the British Foreign Secretary to intervene in the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution to remove a clause that could deprive Christians and other minorities of basic rights.

The archbishop of Westminster’s letter to the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was written after Church leaders in Iraq sounded the alarm over Article 2(a) in the draft constitution, which was submitted Aug. 25.

The article states that «no law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam,» according to a translation reported by the Associated Press.

Although Church leaders «do not question that Iraq will be an Islamic state, nor object to Islam being considered one source of legislation among others, they are most alarmed by the phrase» in Article 2(a), Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor wrote in the letter last Friday.

The cardinal warned that if the clause remained it could have «devastating consequences» for Iraq’s ancient Christian minority, and «fatally undermine» Britain’s plans for a stable democracy in the region.

The draft constitution contains «a real threat to religious freedom,» the cardinal warned.

The draft will be voted on in a general referendum and ratified by the general assembly on Oct. 15, but discussions are under way to fine-tune the draft, according to the Associated Press.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor has asked Jack Straw «to influence the parties to the Constitution to enshrine specific guarantees which establish the equality of non-Muslims and to remove the above-mentioned clause.»

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