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Catholic World News

Weeks before attack, Baghdad archbishop had cried out against persecution

November 03, 2010

On October 15, Syrian Catholic Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad delivered one of the most memorable interventions during the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East-- words made even more poignant by the October 31 attack on worshippers at his cathedral. Catholic World News reprints his remarks below.

Iraq, land of Mesopotamia, land of civilizations, where Abraham was born, where Ur, Babel, and Niniveh are, land of Holy Scripture, land of faith and of martyrs... Since Christianity spread there, realized despite the persecution by the Persians throughout the centuries, the blood of martyrs flowed and the Islamic influence covered it.

Today and since the Revolution of Abd el Karim Kassem, Iraq does not cease living a situation of instability of trials and wars. The last being the American occupation. Christians have always had their part in the sacrifices and tribulations: with the martyrs in the wars and all sorts of different hardships.

Since the year 2003, Christians are the victims of a killing situation, which has provoked a great emigration from Iraq. Even if there are no definite statistics, however the indicators underline that half the Christians have abandoned Iraq and that without a doubt there are only about 400,000 Christians left of the 800,000 that lived there. The invasion of Iraq by America and its allies brought to Iraq in general, and especially to its Christians, destruction and ruin on all levels. Churches were blown up, bishops and priests and lay persons were massacred, many were the victims of aggression. Doctors and businessmen were kidnapped, others were threatened, storage places and homes were pillaged …

Perhaps the acuity with which Christianity was targeted has been lightened during the last two years, but there still is the fear of the unknown, insecurity and instability, as well as the continuation of emigration, which always makes this question arise: what is the future of Christian existence in this country should this situation continue, more so because the civil authorities are so weak. The tears are continuous between the different religious and political composing elements, as well as external influence by external powers, especially neighboring countries.

Seven years have passed and Christianity is still bleeding. Where is the world conscience? All the world remains a spectator before what is happening in Iraq, especially with regards to Christians.

We want to sound the alarm. We ask the question of the great powers: is it true what is said that there is a plan to empty the Middle East of Christians and that Iraq is one of the victims?

I think this Synod should study this subject with attention and should see what can be decided in writing to reach a solution for the situation existing in the Middle East.


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Bernadette - Nov. 06, 2010 12:51 AM ET USA

    What? Israel is not eradicating Christians? Pray tell, what is happening in the Gaza and other territories where the Palestinians are forced to live surrounded by walls and checkpoints? Christian Palestinians, descendants of the first Christians after the Ascension of Christ, are suffering and agonizing because of their treatment by the State of Israel.

  • Posted by: roth115703578 - Nov. 03, 2010 9:20 PM ET USA

    And sadly the appeasers a the Synod chose to criticize Israel, where Christians are protected, and remain silent about Muslims who are systematically cleansing the Middle East of Christians.To begin to solve problem who to first define the problem. Israel is not eradicating Christians, Muslims are. Pope Benedict understands this but not all his Bishops and priests do.

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Nov. 03, 2010 8:37 PM ET USA

    Let's get one thing clear: violent persecution of Christians is latent in every country in which Islam holds sway. Saddam Hussein's secular state did keep it banked down, but only at the cost of brutal oppression of all of Iraqi society. The only remedy for this inborn evil of Islam is conversion. Let's get going with that, shall we?

  • Posted by: marttywinston6762 - Nov. 03, 2010 2:21 PM ET USA

    And before the war, the Holy Father and many bishops warned that war with Iraq was not right. Prophetic?