ACN News: Wednesday, 5th May 2010 – IRAQ
Does anyone care?
Archbishop pleads for action to protect persecuted Christians
By John Pontifex
A LEADING bishop in Iraq has spoken out against the government and security services for failing to protect Christians under threat from militants hell-bent on flushing them out of the country.
Archbishop Georges Casmoussa of Mosul spoke of possible collusion between anti-Christian terrorists and fringe political parties and criticised the authorities, saying they were “too busy holding meetings” to ensure the safety of minority groups.
In his interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which supports persecuted and other suffering Christians, the Syrian Catholic prelate said that a failure of Iraq’s army, police and government to “coordinate” meant that they were “opening the door to terrorists”.
The archbishop, who has called for UN intervention to protect Christians, was speaking after going to hospital to visit some of the 163 people – most of them youngsters – who were injured in a bomb blast which targeted a convoy of buses packed with Christian students.
One male student – as yet unnamed – died instantly and two female students were reported to be in a critical condition following the attack which took place on Sunday (2nd May) on the edge of Mosul, in the north of the country.
Describing how one student had had a leg amputated and another had suffered a serious eye injury, Archbishop Casmoussa said three students were in a critical condition and that plans were underway to transfer 15 people to hospital in Turkey.
The violence is the latest in a series of anti-Christian attacks since 2004 which are widely understood to be part of a coordinated campaign to extinguish the presence of Iraq’s ancient Church, which dates back to earliest times.
Amid reports that Sunday morning’s explosions took place between two checkpoints, Archbishop Casmoussa blamed the authorities for failing to clamp down on terrorists.
He said: “We feel angry about what happened – and we are full of sadness for those who have suffered so much.
“We feel there is no central power here. The authorities are too busy holding meetings and not enough is being done.”
He continued: “The army is not close to the government, the government is not close with the police.
“You have people who are responsible but they are not coordinated in their actions and this opens the door to terrorists.”
(Archbishop Georges Casmoussa of Mosul)
Speaking of possible collusion between some political parties and criminals, he said: “Some politicians are involved in the actions of terrorists and sometimes murders take place in the name of political parties.”
He criticised the government for failing to bring terrorists to justice saying: “We hear that people who have killed Christians are in prison but legal judgements are not being brought against them.”
He added: “We call on the central government to find those responsible, to judge them and to try them according to international law.
“This judgement must be open and known by the people. We ask the UN – and the US, who are masters of the situation – to help the minorities, especially Christians.”
Archbishop Casmoussa was speaking after a series of demonstrations against the poor security situation held on Sunday (2nd May) and Monday (3rd May) in Caramles, Qaraqosh, Alqosh, Bartalla and other predominantly Christian towns and villages outside Mosul.
Archbishop Casmoussa went on to appeal to the benefactors and friends of Aid to the Church in Need, asking them for prayer and continued support for suffering Christians in Iraq.
He said: “We ask that all of you associated with ACN continue to pray for us, to be our hope and to go on supporting our projects.
“Our projects are crucial if we are to build a future for Christians in Iraq – to continue with the same hope and the same purpose in this country of ours.”
In accordance with the priorities set for the charity by Pope Benedict XVI, Iraq is a key area of Aid to the Church in Need’s work.
ACN help includes support for refugees from Iraq in Turkey, Jordan and Syria, as well as internally displaced people, Mass offerings for persecuted priests, seminary equipment, church buildings, assistance for religious congregations and aid for Sisters who give Easter and Christmas hampers to displaced Christians in the north of the country.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 46.5 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information or to make a donation to help the work of the Church in Iraq, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: email@example.com or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 6245 Blacktown DC NSW 2148. Web: www.aidtochurch.org