Iraqi Bishops in Rome: Don't Forget Us

Mideast Prelates Lament Media Silence

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ROME, JAN. 25, 2009 ( There is a «deafening silence» in the international community about the plight of Iraqi Christians, attest prelates from the wartorn country.

The bishops, in Rome for their five-yearly meeting with the Pope, spoke with Vatican Radio about the situation their flocks are facing back home and they appealed to the world not to forget.

Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk and Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Babylon spoke about the deafening silence regarding the situation of Iraqi Christians and lamented that they were powerless to stop the mass exodus of Christians from the country.

Before 2003, there were 800,000 Christians in an Iraqi population of 25 million. But in the last five years, the conditions of life and anti-Christian violence have forced half of the Christian population to leave their homes.

The Iraqi bishops said their outcry over the situation has only been reported by the media in the last few months. Now, they said, public opinion and the international community are responding to create security and thousands of Iraqis are returning.

Lending a hand

Syrian Catholic Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad said the situation is such that one presumes there is «a plan to make Christians leave the Middle East.»

And Archbishop Sako said he wanted to ask the Holy Father about preparing a special synod for the Church in Iraq: «We have great need of the Pope’s help. Thanks to his continual pleas the international media have begun to talk about the Iraqi cause.»

«We are not in a position,» he continued, «to plan and project the future of Iraq. The Holy See could certainly give us a hand and support.

«We must give answers to [Iraqi Christians] that will keep fear from winning out. We need others. In Iraq there needs to be a democracy that is adapted to a country that has never had one. We have been waiting for it for 35 years.»

«Democracy requires education and cannot be forced,» Bishop Warduni added.

Leaving a mess

Syrian Catholic Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of Mosul contended that after the arrival of American troops, the country’s problems «increased a hundredfold.»

«But,» he said, «the Americans are not the problem […] The real problem of the different communities in Iraq is the negation of the other.»

Archbishop Sako added: «We feel a little isolated, forgotten, unfortunately. The Christians have left the country and the others, who have stayed, wait without much hope in the future. They live with worries about their children, for their future, for their houses, for their jobs.»

In regard to the change that the new American president, Barack Obama, could bring, the prelate observed that «politics does not depend on one person. If he decides to pull the soldiers out, then there will be a mess. Perhaps there will be a civil war. We do not have enough soldiers and police to control a country of 25 million people.»

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