Iraqi Christians Wary of Withdrawal, Says Prelate

Doubt Ability of Native Police to Provide Security

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VIENNA, APRIL 1, 2009 ( According to the archbishop of Kirkuk, Iraq’s Christians are worried about a forthcoming withdrawal of international troops from the country since security is still lacking.

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako spoke of the security issues and the inability of the Iraqi police to handle the situation on their own at a press conference in Vienna sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need and the organizations Christian Solidarity International, Austria, and “Pro Oriente.”

“Under Saddam’s regime we had security but no freedom,” he said. “Today we have freedom, but the problem is security.”

According to a Tuesday report from Aid to the Church in Need, the prelate said that another problem is the tendency of many Iraqis to equate the U.S. troops with Christians.

During the conflict, there has been a mass exodus of Iraqi Christians from Iraq. “Some 200,000 Christians have left the country. This is a tragedy for us,” Archbishop Sako lamented.

Nevertheless, the archbishop affirmed, “We have many problems, but we also have great hope. We are not afraid, but rather we want to be able to live together with the Muslims in Iraq in peace.”

Archbishop Sako expressed the conviction that a dialogue with Muslims is still possible — “not a theological dialogue, but a ‘dialogue of life.'”

At the same time, the prelate stressed the importance of Muslims finding an understanding of the “responsible freedom” of man. Muslims, he said, should find an interpretation of the Koran for the present time. Instead “the Muslims are living as though in the 7th century, and that is a problem.”

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