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Iraq's Christian Leaders Appeal for Protection From Islamists

Baghdad (AsiaNews) -- Religious leaders have taken up the Chaldean Patriarch's appeal to save persecuted Christians in Iraq, asking for protection from the authorities and respect for human rights. However, while condemning the untenable situation, they have not lost hope that the "flames in which all Iraqis are burning will be extinguished." Yesterday, as reported on the website Ankawa.com -- Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, which has its headquarters in Chicago, reiterated the words spoken by Emmanuel III Delly on 6 May in Erbil, reinforcing them with more appeals to Iraqi political and religious leaders. A "strong" reminder of the need to preserve the "social and religious mosaic" of Iraq also came from the Syrian-Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo, as reported by the website Baghdadhope. In his address, Mgr Gregotios Yohanna Ibrahim concentrated above all on the damage caused by the war in Iraq.

The Assyrian Patriarch of the East first drew attention to the tragedy facing the Christian community especially in "Mosul and Baghdad, where terrorists at work in Dora district are asking Christian families to convert to Islam or to pay a protection tax or to leave their homes and all their belongings."

Dinkha IV described as "inhuman" such acts perpetrated against Christians, "who have always respected the authorities". For this reason, he continued, "we call on the government to extinguish the flames in which all Iraqis, without distinction, are burning." And turning to the Iraqi premier, the Shiite Nouri Al Maliki: "Muslim parties and groups that are perpetrating violent acts against Christians are far from Islam; so we ask the prime minister and MPs to take the necessary steps to stop the violence that is affecting all the sons of Iraq." There was also a call to the international community: "We ask the United Nations and human rights organizations to ensure respect for the rights of persecuted peoples and to help us stop this violence."

A similar stand was taken by Mgr Gregotios Yohanna Ibrahim from Syria. "The words spoken by His Beatitude, the Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, moved us," he said. "The forced emigration of Christians is terrible and not accepted either by Islam or by Christianity, or by reasonable human beings." The bishop, however, used even more forceful language to claim that "in Iraq, there are those who want to exploit this situation to change the social structure of the country, to implement a specific plan aimed at undermining the national unity of Iraq, the cultural, religious and ethnic mosaic made up of all its citizens."

Mgr Ibrahim added: "As leaders and as men of faith, we have the duty to stand by the faithful, men of God, those who work for the good of the country. We must not be afraid even if the current situation appears to be like a black cloud to us, because the sun will shine again some day, and on that day we will feel that God is with us, with the entire country and with its people, Muslims and Christians."


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