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Bishop urges Christians to leave Iraq

Catholic World News - November 08, 2010

A Syrian Orthodox bishop based in London is urging Iraqi Christians to abandon their native land.

“I say clearly and now-- the Christian people should leave their beloved land of our ancestors and escape the premeditated ethnic cleansing,” said Archbishop Athanasios Dawood, one week after a massacre at the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad. “This is better than having them killed one by one.”

The archbishop, a native of Iraq, added:

The Iraqi government is weak, biased, if not extremist. It does not protect us and the other minorities. It has ignored our legal rights. We ask the British government, the EU and the U.N. to protect us…. I ask the British government again to help the Iraqi Christians and grant them the rights of humanitarian asylum in order to preserve what is left of the victims who do not carry a weapon to fight and kill.

“You know, everybody hates the Christian,” he said in additional remarks to BBC. “Yes, during Saddam Hussein, we were living in peace-- nobody attacked us. We had human rights, we had protection from the government but now nobody protects us.”

“Since 2003, there has been no protection for Christians,” he added. “We've lost many people and they've bombed our homes, our churches, monasteries.”

“Why are we living now in this country, after we had a promise from America to bring us freedom, democracy?”

“Staying or leaving-- we will leave it to the people to decide,” responded Father Saad Sirop Hanna, a Catholic priest in Baghdad. “I can understand this bishop, this priest, I can understand him. I agree with him from a certain point of view, but I disagree with him from another.”

“We are afraid, but not desperate.”

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