Prelate: Iraqi Attacks Political, Not Religious

Links Persecution With Fundamentalism

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MADRID, Spain, JULY 14, 2009 ( The archbishop of Baghdad, Iraq, is affirming that the problem of violence in Iraq is more politically motivated than religiously.

Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman said this during a press conference this morning in Madrid at the Caritas headquarters in Spain.

The prelate acknowledged that despite recent news, such as the report of seven churches bombed over the past three days, there has actually been a breakthrough in violence over the past year.

He stated that there has been an 80% decrease in the number of casualties due to violence.

However, the archbishop also expressed concern that the recent attacks on Catholic churches will “sink” the people’s awakening hopes for “the decline of violence” and that “many Christians will choose to flee the country.”

Archbishop Sleiman traveled to Spain along with the director of Caritas in Iraq, Nabil Nissan, to raise awareness about the most pressing humanitarian challenges in the country.

This visit marks the tenth anniversary of a similar trip made in 1999 by former Chaldean Archbishop Raphael Bidawid of Baghdad.
In his address to the press, Archbishop Sleiman acknowledged the serious challenge of “national reconciliation” that is currently facing Iraq.

He noted that is cannot be addressed as long as the latent social and territorial division is bleeding the country.

The prelate stated, “To the extent that reconciliation is advanced,” we will also be able to move forward in solving our problems.


He spoke about the problem of religious persecution that minorities are being subjected to, which has led to the exile of at least half of the Iraqi Christians from the country.

The archbishop explained that the Christians are a minority, comprising about half a million believers in 14 churches throughout the country.

He asserted that the situation of Christians in Iraq is more precarious in places where fundamentalism has power, stating, “Where there is extremism, there is persecution.”
Both the prelate and the Caritas director explained the priorities of humanitarian action developed by the aid agency.
Nissan estimated that the country needs at least 3,000 new health centers to offer minimum coverage to the entire population.

Archbishop Sleiman urged the public to realize that “the problem of Iraq is also a problem for you, a problem throughout Europe.”

“The question of Iraq,” he said, “is not limited only to this country, but affects the entire Middle East, and the consequences of violence in this region also affect all of Europe.”

The prelate concluded, “It is therefore urgent that we realize that building peace in the Middle East and Iraq presupposes building peace at the same time in Europe.”

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