Posted November 11, 2010 by The Underground Staff in Commentary and News

Iraqi Christian archbishop appeals for international help

The Syrian Catholic archbishop of Baghdad appealed recently to the international community on behalf of Christians in Iraq who have faced intense violence and persecution in the past few weeks.

Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka cited the need for stronger measures to secure the safety of Christians in Iraq, even as he has been comforting Christians who have turned to him for help, the Globe and Mail said.

Matoka said, “It would be criminal on the part of the international community not to take care of the security of the Christians,” according to The Globe and Mail.

Christians in Baghdad have been gathering in panic in churches, praying for rescue from an unrelenting wave of persecution for the past 10 days, including a series of assaults on the dwellings and businesses of Christians in the capital city which have left six people dead and 33 injured since Tuesday, the Globe and Mail reported.

Matoka said, “Everybody is scared. People are asking who is going to protect them, how are they going to stay on in Iraq. We are trying to encourage them to stay patient,” The Globe and Mail said.

Monsignor Pius Kasha told The Globe and Mail, “We don’t know what is the aim of these criminals, but what is certain is that this will push even more Christians to emigrate.”

France’s UN ambassador Gerard Araud said from New York that there is “a deliberate will to destroy the Christian community. [This is] an attack on the diversity of Iraqi society,” according to The Globe and Mail.

The Islamic State of Iraq, which is linked with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for an Oct. 31 Syrian Catholic hostage taking that ended in 53 deaths and some 60 others injured. (See http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2010/11/iraqi-cardinal-condemns-bloody-ruthless-attack-on-landmark-church-14305)

They did it to avenge a scrapped plan by a small church to burn the Quran, and to seek the release of two Iraqi women whom they claimed were prisoners. After the incident, the Islamic State of Iraq stated that all Christians are “legitimate targets,” which led to the last 10 days of violence, the Globe and Mail reported.

Demonstrations, support

In Michigan, some 1,000 members of the Iraqi Christian community took to the streets chanting, praying and waving flags in front of the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit. They said the U.S. and Iraqi government should do more to protect Iraqi Christians from Muslim extremists, according to Catholic Online.

The group said that for years, they had been urging the State Department to protect religious minorities in Iraq, “but nothing ever gets done. Religious and ethnic minorities are not a priority,” Andre Anton, one of the rally organizers, told Catholic Online.

A similar rally is being scheduled within three weeks in Washington D.C., Anton told Catholic Online, in the hope that the nation’s lawmakers will take heed.

U.S. Rep Gary Peters cited during a news conference at St. Toma Syriac Catholic Church in Farmington Hills, the crucial need to act immediately to set in motion protection measures for religious minorities in Iraq, in light of the ongoing withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country, Catholic Online said.

“We have to step up and be firm,” Peters said.

Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary said the recent attacks are “very painful,” and “a terrible suffering for all the Christian communities in the world,” The Globe and Mail reported.

One day before the latest attacks, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked Christians to stay in the country and promised that they would be protected, The Globe and Mail reported.

The Quran says that Christians are “people of the book” who are to be protected, according to The Globe and Mail.