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Bishop From Iraq Pleads for Support

Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, right, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, take questions from U.S. bishops during the bishops’ mid-year meeting in Atlanta 13 June. Bishop Warduni discussed the issues facing Christians in Iraq and other places in the Middle East. (Photo: CNS/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin) 

15 Jun 2012 – By Dennis Sadowski

ATLANTA (CNS) — Making an impassioned plea on behalf of Iraq’s dwindling Christian population, Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad called upon the U.S. bishops to press the Obama administration to take steps to protect religious rights in the Middle Eastern country.

Speaking June 13 during the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the cleric from Iraq said the country’s Christians are being targeted by Muslim extremists bent on ridding the country of all religious minorities.

He said in the session presented by the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace that the difficulties Christians face emerged only after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

“As leaders of the church in the United States,” he told the bishops, “you bear a special responsibility toward the people and Christians of Iraq. In 2003, your government led the war that brought some terrible consequences. The U.S. government can and must do all it can to encourage tolerance and respect in Iraq, to help Iraq strengthen the rule of law and to provide assistance that helps create jobs for Iraqis, especially those on the margins.

“Many times we ask, ‘Where can we find justice and peace?’ Our Lord says, “I give you my peace, but not like the world gives.” The peace of Jesus is love. This love guides us to unity, because love works miracles, and builds justice and peace. This can be realized when all the church works together in one heart and one thought,” the bishop said.

“We beg you to do something for us,” he continued. "We want only peace, security and freedom. You can tell everybody Iraq was very rich, but now is very poor, because of the war and much discrimination. We want to cry out to you: we want peace, justice, stability, freedom of religion. No more war, no more death, no more explosions, no more injustice. Please help us talk to everybody. Push the cause of peace.

Bishop Warduni cited brutal attacks on churches as tragic, including the October 2010 assault on the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady of Deliverance that claimed 58 lives. He said incidents have forced more than half of Iraq’s Christians to flee to neighboring countries, reducing the Chaldean population to about 400,000.

Since 2003, one bishop, a priest and six subdeacons have been killed, he said, while another 15 clergy have been kidnapped and released only after large ransoms were paid. Bishop Warduni said several of the kidnapped priests were tortured during their captivity.

He said Muslims have forced Christians living in Dora, a Christian section of Baghdad, to leave their homes or to pay “jizya,” a fine levied on non-Muslims who choose to live in an Islamic society. He pointed to similar attacks in Mosul in northern Iraq and in other cities.

“They forced our Christian daughters to marry Muslims, even the princes of al-Qaida. They said to Christians, ‘Become Muslims or be killed.’ As a result, many Christians escaped the area and went to the North or fled outside of Iraq,” Bishop Warduni said.

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Tags: Iraq Middle East Christians Middle East Chaldeans