MOSUL, Iraq, JAN. 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The new archbishop of Mosul of the Chaldeans is underlining his mission to bring hope to the persecuted and suffering Christians in his region.
Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona, 42, stated this to Aid to the Church in Need shortly after his Jan. 22 installation as head of the Mosul Archeparchy, which took place two weeks after his episcopal ordination.
“My new mission is to provide hope and confidence to the Christians in Mosul, making them aware of the presence of a father and a minister beside them in their present plight,” he said.
Christians in the country are currently undergoing another wave of violence, which has included 10 murders in the last two months, kidnappings, car bombs and attacks on churches.
The violence claimed the life of the former archbishop of Mosul of the Chaldeans, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was killed in 2008.
Archbishop Louis Sako of the Kirkuk Archdiocese in Northern Iraq voiced his concern that this crisis will lead to another mass exodus of Christians determined to “leave the country for good.”
Archbishop Nona affirmed that the Chaldean Catholic community in Mosul has decreased by two-thirds since anti-Christian violence began in 2003, and now they number only around 5,000 people.
He warned that this decline may force Mosul Christians into obscurity.
“When all the wealthy people who own businesses, investments and factories leave the city, those who remain will have an effect that is negligible,” the prelate stated.
The aid agency reported that Mosul, which is located on the Tigris River and is linked to the Biblical city of Nineveh, is the “historical heartland of Christianity in Iraq and traditionally it has been the city boasting the largest number of faithful in the country.”
However, it continued, Christians are increasingly victimized by extremists, and they have also been “labelled as easy targets in clashes between Kurds and Arabs in the city.”
In an interview with SIR agency last week, the archbishop of Baghdad, Archbishop Jean Sleiman, decried the media silence and political indifference surrounding recent violence against Christians.
He said, “Let us break the wall of silence that surrounds the killing of Christians in Mosul and in Iraq.”
“Christians are killed in Mosul, while the State does nothing,” the prelate stated. “The forces of order serving in the places of the attacks and killings don’t see, don’t hear, don’t speak.”
“A new exodus is about to begin,” the archbishop said. “Once again, Christians are sacrificed on the altar of the radical policies of this country.”
Archbishop Nano affirmed: “We need to carry our cause as Christians to the influential countries so as to exert pressure on the conflicting political powers in Iraq not to use us to gain some political benefits. That is what is happening now.”
He sent an appeal that Christians be left in peace, kept out of the political struggles.
The prelate added, “What is required is an international pressure on the strong and influential parties in Iraq to keep us away from their struggle for power.”
He told Aid to the Church in Need that the Church is the only source of hope for many of the Mosul Christians.
Archbishop Nona affirmed: “The only thing that the faithful are still adhering to is the Church.
“For this reason, the Church, represented in the person of the bishop, has to care for its followers and help them feel secure through its presence in them and among them.”