U.S. must ensure Iraqi Christians safety

By  Catholic News Service
  • November 18, 2010
iraq funeralWASHINGTON - The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the U.S. government to “redouble its efforts to assist Iraqis” in providing safety for its citizens, especially religious minorities.

“To meet its moral obligations to the Iraqi people, it is critically important that the United States take additional steps now to help Iraq protect its citizens, especially Christians and others who are victims of organized attacks,” said Cardinal Francis George in a Nov. 9 letter to U.S. President Barack Obama.

The cardinal sent the letter after the Oct. 31 attack on the Syrian Catholic church in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad that killed 58 people and wounded 75.

The cardinal reminded the president that the U.S. bishops had expressed “grave moral questions” before the U.S.-led combat began in Iraq and had warned of the “unpredictable consequences” of that action.

“The decimation of the Christian community in Iraq and the continuing violence that threatens all Iraqis are among those tragic consequences.”

The attack, along with recent bombings in Baghdad, “are grim evidence of the savage violence and lack of security that has plagued the Iraqi people, especially Christians and other minorities, for over seven years,” he said.

“Having invaded Iraq, our nation has a moral obligation not to abandon those Iraqis who cannot defend themselves.”

The cardinal outlined a series of steps that, “at a minimum,” the United States and the international community must help Iraq to achieve: enable Iraq to create a strong government; build adequate military and police services to provide security; improve the judicial system and rule of law; promote the protection of human rights, especially religious freedom; rebuild Iraq’s shattered economy; and assist refugees and internally displaced Iraqis.

While the stance of the Church had been to encourage people to return to Iraq so the Christian community does not disappear in the country, George said the recent developments make clear this is not a viable option.

Meanwhile, 26  Iraqi Catholics injured in the Oct. 31 attack were transferred to a Rome hospital for treatment.

Pope Benedict XVI thanked Italy’s foreign minister for helping facilitate the transfer of three children, seven men and 16 women. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reported that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, had asked Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, to organize the transfer of the patients for treatment. A group of 35 Iraqi Catholics hurt in the attack already had been transported to Paris Nov. 10.

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