Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Life Is a Calvary" in Iraq

Yesterday, the Synod in Rome heard from the church of the martyrs through their pastor, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.

The situation in some parts of Iraq is disastrous and tragic. Life is a Calvary: there is no peace or security, just as there is a lack of daily necessities. There are continuing shortages of electricity, water, gasoline, telephone communications are increasingly difficult, entire roads are blocked, schools are closed or always in danger, hospitals are on short staff, the people are afraid for their safety. Everyone is afraid of kidnapping, frightened by the intimidation. And what can be said of the unjustifiable kidnappings that take place on a daily basis, harming entire families and often depriving them of their loved ones, even though they have paid tens of thousands of dollars for a release that never happens? Not to mention the increasing number of deaths caused by car bombs and suicide bombings. (Asia News)
Cardinal Delly offered his contribution to the Synod with the witness of his people:

Living the word of God, for us means bearing witness even at the cost of our own lives, as has taken place and is still happening with the sacrifice of bishops, priests, and faithful. They remain in Iraq, strong in faith and love of Christ, thanks to the fire of the word of God. For this reason, I beg you to pray for us and with us to the Lord Jesus, the Word of God, and to share our concerns, our hopes, and the pain of our wounds, so that the Word of God made flesh may remain in his Church and with us as good news and as support. Sixteen of our priests and two of our bishops have been kidnapped and released after an extremely high ransom. Some of them belong to the ranks of the new martyrs who today pray for us in heaven: the archbishop of Mosul, Faraj Rahho, Fr. Raghid Ganni, two other priests, and six more young men. (Asia News)
Half of the previous Christian population of Iraq of 1.4 million has fled the country, while those who remain are too poor to leave. The acts of terror include:

• A Catholic and a Syrian Orthodox church in Kirkuk, as well as an Anglican church and the Apostolic Nuncio’s residence in Baghdad, were bombed in January 2006, killing three people.
• In September 2006, two other churches were attacked, in Kirkuk and Baghdad, killing two persons, one a child.
• Fr. Boulos Iskandar Behnam was kidnapped and murdered. His head had been sliced from his body and placed upon his lifeless chest.
• In December 2006, a high ranking member of the Presbyterian Church in Mosul was murdered.
• In May 2007, St. George’s Church Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood was bombed for a second time.
• In June 2007, a Catholic priest and three deacons were murdered outside of their church after saying Mass in Mosul. (NCR Cafe)

In recent days, the attacks against Christians have intensified in Mosul. A church was bombed and partially damaged.
Haitham Haazem, a Christian who fled to Baghdad from Mosul with his wife on Sunday, said Iraqi forces had restricted themselves to fixed checkpoints and had
little control over entire neighborhoods on the east side, where killings and intimidations took place. (New York Times)
Meanwhile, there is no agreement for our continuing military involvement in Iraq after the end of the year. (Washington Post)

As our involvement and interest in Iraq wanes, it remains to be seen how we will fulfill our obligations to this fragile population persecuted and displaced by the war we waged.

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