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Iraqi Christians hold peaceful protest in Mosul, demand government action

Catholic World News - March 01, 2010

Syrian Catholic Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of Mosul led over 1,000 Iraqi Catholics in a silent protest on February 28 to demand that the government act to put a stop to violence against Christians there.

The United Nations estimated that 683 Christians fled Mosul between February 20 and February 27. Chaldean Catholic Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona of Mosul estimated that "about 400 families" had left the city's community of 4,000 Christians.

“The daily massacre suffered by the Christian community … is met with indifference from the authorities,” said Archbishop Casmoussa on the eve of the march. “We will be fasting and praying for peace and for the survival of Christians.”

“Security is not guaranteed,” he added. “There are soldiers in front of the church, and this helps to prevent terrorist attacks. But today's Christian families are being killed on the streets or in their homes. More protection is needed. We ask authorities that the culprits be arrested and prosecuted according to law. We want justice to be done.”

Archbishop Casmoussa added that the Christians of Mosul were consoled by a visit on February from 82-year-old Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, the patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Eleven of the nation’s 15 dioceses and eparchies are Chaldean Catholic; two are Syrian Catholic, one is Armenian Catholic, and one is Latin Rite.

In Kirkuk, Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako led another prayer rally, saying that Christians there would also be fasting. He said: "It is shameful that in a city like Mosul, with a million people, no one has spoken out against the slaughter of Christians." While the central Iraqi government has denounced the killings, he observed, the embattled Christians need "concrete actions" rather than rhetoric.

Archbishop Sako also warned against the "Nineveh Plains plain"-- the proposal to gather Christians into a single location in the Nineveh region. All Christians should united in opposition to that proposal, the archbishop said, "because it is a trap." Catholic leaders have generally agreed that a Christian enclave would be vulnerable to organized attacks. Moreover, Church leaders observe that isolating Christians from the general population would make it impossible for the Church to continue its centuries-old role as an evangelizing force in Iraq.

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