Catholic World News

Iraqi ambassador emphasizes Islam’s tolerance, says Christians should not fear

February 17, 2011

Iraqi Christians have been targeted by terrorists who do not adhere to the “tolerant essence of the Islamic faith,” Habeeb Mohammed Hadi Ali Al-Sadr, Iraq’s ambassador to the Holy See, said at a recent address at the Vatican.

In his talk the Iraqi ambassador criticized the Western media for emphasizing the dangers facing Christians in Iraq-- thus taking a stand directly opposite that of Iraqi bishops, who have criticized the West for ignoring Christian suffering. Al-Sadr suggested that terrorists who target Christians have done so deliberately in order to damage Iraq's public image.

“The enemies of today's Iraq are the associations of Saddam infidels who, after the capitulation of the regime, took advantage of the vacuum of power created as a consequence of the American decision to dissolve all the structures of the security services,” he said. “The terrorists have understood that the blood of Iraqi Muslims, which they have shed like rivers, is not so interesting in the eyes of the Western media.”

The regime of Saddam Hussein fell in 2003 after US troops invaded; since that time, 400,000 of Iraq ’s 800,000 Christians have fled the nation, Iraqi Archbishop Athanase Matoka told the Synod of Bishops in October.

Al-Sadr said that terrorists have "attained their evil objective,” by giving the world, and even the Christians of Iraq, the impression that religious minorities face a grim future under the new regime. “Without realizing it, the media and international organizations have fallen into this mechanism, playing the game of the terrorists, being concerned about the Christians, their future and the society's lack of development," he said. "The consequence has been the abandonment by Christians of their homes and emigration.”

The ambassador insisted that the terrorists who prey on Christians do not reflect the true nature of Iraq today:

Individual [terrorist] actions don't necessarily indicate that there is an Iraqi plot geared to the persecution of Christians, to the elimination of their existence, destroying their cultural patrimony as some think. In fact, these individual actions don't reflect the profound and secular coexistence between Christians and Muslims, as they do not express either the tolerant essence of the Islamic faith which calls for dialogue, respect of pluralism, rejection of violence, even considering it outside the way of Islam, as is written: "to kill a soul for no reason is to kill the whole of humanity."

The Iraqi ambassador issued a call for his country's Christians to resist the pressures of fear and intimidation. “It is hoped that Christians will take steps to abandon fear and their present closure,” the ambassador concluded. “It is also hoped that, persevering with patience in the communion of sacrifices with their fellow citizens, they will reject the idea of emigrating, thus making the plan fail to empty the country of Christians … my people can only breathe their identity with two lungs, Muslim and Christian. An Iraq without Christians is an Iraq without identity and symbols.”

The ambassador's claim that the Islamic terrorists now targeting Christians in Iraq are allies of the late Saddam Hussein is suspect, since the deposed dictator was not warmly disposed toward religious zealots. And his repeated hints that the threats to Christians have been exaggerated will not sit well with the Iraqi Christians who have witnessed a series of targeted bombings and execution-style killings.

However, Al-Sadr did offer some official reassurance, reporting that the Iraqi government has established a new office to coordinate security for the religious minority, and promised new efforts at protection as well as reconstruction of ruined churches. He offered a promise:

This calms us in regard to the future of Christians in Iraq, which will be promising and prosperous in the light of the notable improvements that there will be in the country at the level of security and the economy which is already constantly improving.


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  • Posted by: jack_gabriel4613 - Feb. 19, 2011 2:29 AM ET USA

    The Iraqi delegate to the Vatican needs to be reminded that these exhortations are becoming scratched records and incredulous. His Islamic quotes are half baked and taken out of context for momentary effects. If ISLAM does not abandon its core beleifs in 'Rejection' of any faith other than Islam then all statements for the spontaneous effects and appeasements will be blown by the winds of Islamic hatred. Remove the "Allahu Akbar" from the Iraqi flag now. It is a call for submission to Islam.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 18, 2011 8:34 AM ET USA

    (1)It is a poor excuse to blame the reaction of "media and internations organizations" for our attention and concern about the acts of radical Muslims. Also, note three key words in his quoting their belief that "to kill a soul FOR NO REASON is to kill the whole of humanity." The radical Muslims have a reason to kill. Armiger Jagoe, editor of The Joyful Catholic.

  • Posted by: voxfem - Feb. 17, 2011 9:19 PM ET USA

    I'm sure the 400,000 Christians who left will be happy to return now that they know they weren't being persecuted.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Feb. 17, 2011 3:20 PM ET USA

    What a relief to hear that Pres. Bush was right and Islam is a religion of peace! I'm sure it will also be a relief to the victims of their brand of peace, and to their survivors.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 17, 2011 2:04 PM ET USA

    "the tolerant essence of the Islamic faith which calls for dialogue, respect of pluralism, rejection of violence" Perhaps that's because Mohammed did away with it once he got to Medina. I honestly believe that there are Muslims of goodwill out there who really want to see an end to Christians being persecuted and having, at best, a second-class existence in Muslim societies. But they've got to admit first that minority faiths don't have it good in those societies.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Feb. 17, 2011 8:55 AM ET USA

    Gee Mr Amabassador, I would like to believe you and all of your fellow Muslims who tell us there is nothing to fear from your religion, but your religion's 1400 year track record of warlord tactics from the Prophet himself, military aggression, dhimmi status for conquered non-Muslims, sharia law imposition on non-Muslims, etc speak otherwise.