ROME, NOV. 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- An auxiliary bishop of Baghdad says the desire of Iraqi Christians is that basic human rights will also be guaranteed for them.
Bishop Shlemon Warduni reiterated an appeal for the persecuted Christians of Iraq when he was in Rome on Wednesday. At the end of the general audience, the bishop spoke with Benedict XVI, who told him “Iraq is in our hearts. We always remember the Christians; we pray for them and for peace in the nation.”
Later on, the Iraqi prelate told Vatican Radio that the attacks against Christians “sadden us because we have lived for many centuries in peace.”
“During all the wars,” he said, “our churches, our houses were open to Muslims and to everyone from the other confessions. In these recent times, though, it amazes us that Christians are attacked in an almost diabolical way. In just a short time, 13 have been assassinated, three houses destroyed, and more than 2,500 families have been driven out of their houses, obliged to a forced emigration. With megaphones, Christians have been told: ‘Leave your houses.'”
Bishop Warduni noted how the Church raised an appeal “to the world so that our government would move in favor of peace and send the Iraqi armed forces.”
“They heard us,” he said, “and the prime minister and president sent soldiers who have brought a bit of peace.”
With this, the Baghdad bishop affirmed, Christians are starting to regain trust and some 700-800 families have returned.
But, he lamented, “many still don’t feel secure and are afraid of being displaced again.”
At the beginning, the bishop recalled, “neither the government, nor the administration of Mosul, nor the parties helped us. Only after a few days of continuous appeals were we heard, but unfortunately, neither Europe, nor the United States, nor the United Nations … no one helped us on that occasion.”
“That’s why we talked to those who concern themselves with human rights — and not because of being Christians — that we want them to assert [rights] for us too,” he explained.
Asked what Christians in the West can do to support their brothers in Iraq, Bishop Warduni suggested: “Let us pray to God because he is the king of peace who can do all things: He can change minds, hearts, attitudes.
“The world is full of interests like that of the petroleum that we have … maybe without that black gold, we would be in peace.”
The prelate welcomed what he called “a slight bettering on the front of terrorism, which gives a little hope” in the majority of the country. “It is not, however, a sign of hope that makes us say we are going to have peace.”