Chaldean Patriarch on Iraqi Refugees in Lebanon

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Millions of Iraqis have fled their homeland to escape violence, terrorism, extortion and death, said the patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church at a Mass in St. Raphael Chaldean Cathedral in Beirut Oct. 21.

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS)- Chaldean Cardinal-designate Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, Iraq, thanked the people of Lebanon for their hospitality and called for more help for Iraqi refugees there.

Millions of Iraqis have fled their homeland to escape violence, terrorism, extortion and death, said the patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church at a Mass in St. Raphael Chaldean Cathedral in Beirut Oct. 21.

He appealed to Lebanese authorities to ease the burden weighing on the lives of the tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon, many of whom are Christian.

He expressed gratitude toward the Lebanese who have welcomed Iraqis seeking refuge “while they wait for the storm to pass” in their homeland.

Cardinal-designate Delly noted that Iraqi refugees face numerous difficulties, particularly regarding their employment, legal status and ability to obtain work permits.

Although they receive emergency aid, notably from Caritas Lebanon and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, they need more help for medical treatment and education for their children, he said. Caritas Lebanon is the local agency of the Caritas Internationalis confederation of Catholic relief, development and social services organizations.

He said the refugees live in “extremely poor conditions.”

“They are packed in small spaces for which they pay high rents even though their refugee status qualifies them for better treatment, especially from the police,” Cardinal-designate Delly said.

Cardinal-designate Delly has stood out as the voice of the suffering of all Iraqis during the ongoing war in his country. He had retired as an auxiliary bishop of Baghdad when he was elected patriarch in 2003, just months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Meanwhile, at the Mass Chaldean Bishop Michel Kassarji of Beirut called attention to the “intolerable treatment of Chaldean Christians by extremist groups in Iraq, forcing the Christians to convert, or kidnapping them or killing them, not to mention violence against women, the elderly and children, the killing of priests and destruction of churches.”

“Is this the Iraq that we know?” Bishop Kassarji asked.

“Surely, what is happening in Iraq today is inhumane and contrary to all religious beliefs and traditions,” he said.

The bishop noted that “there are people in Iraq that want to stay in their homeland, who refuse that their lives be at the mercy of others … who plead for the Iraqis to come back to their senses.”