Remarks by His Grace Bishop Mar Bawai Soro in Support of Iraqi Christians

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At the Chicago Demonstration; June 28, 2007

We, the American-Iraqi Christians, live in a state of dichotomy. We are gathered here today to inform the American public and media about the case of our brothers and sisters in Iraq. We are also gathered to communicate to the US Government officials our thoughts and demands.

On the one hand, we are joyous that our new country, the United States of America – the greatest country in the world – has liberated our old country, Iraq, from the grip of a brutal dictatorship.

But, on the other, we are highly disturbed because Iraqis in general, and Christians in particular, are worst off today than they were four years ago.

Iraqi Christians are the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac People. They are amongst the first people who accepted Christianity in the world. They are also the last concentrated-pocket of the Aramaic-speaking people in the world.

Their extinction will be seen as the direct failure of the U.S. government’s policy in Iraq – indeed a tragic outcome for which thousands of American men and women have sacrificed their lives!

Unlike the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds, the Christian minority has no militia to defend itself. Christians are and have always been people of peace.

While Islamic fundamentalists have destroyed twenty Christian churches, killed and tortured numerous priests and deacons, literally publicly crucified Christians, kidnapped and murdered hundreds of innocent ChaldoAssyrians, the Iraqi and U.S. forces are standing by in silence. The only options offered by these Islamic fundamentalists to Iraqi Christians is to convert, leave or die.

Christians – the indigenous people of Iraq – have become victims and refugees in their own homeland. Even the peace-loving, God-fearing Iraqi Muslims are helpless in the face of this calamitous reality. That is why Iraqi Christians must have a added protection – a US policy to address their deteriorating condition. They must receive full and equal support from the Iraqi government, as well as the U.S. administration.

Just as the US Government protected the Muslims in Kosovo so too it can and must protect the Christians of Iraq. We offer our sincere gratitude to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for urging President Bush to remedy the situation of Iraqi Christians. As American citizens, we too call upon our President and Government to save these helpless Christians of Iraq. They have become the unknown-martyrs of the Iraqi war. Even worst, they are stereotyped and linked by the terrorists as being with the Americans, the infidels, and the forces that have invaded Iraq.

Today, we are gathered here to urge President Bush and the US Government, to take the following steps:

1) Iraqi Christians must receive support so that they can literally survive. This support must be constitutional, political and financial both in Iraq and in surrounding countries. We urge the US Administration to make equal the constitutional rights of the Christians, as an indigenous Iraqi minority, to the rights of Iraqi Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds. In such a context the ChaldoAssyrian Syriac of Iraq must be granted a self-governing constitutional right to guarantee the survival of their religion and culture in Iraq.

2) With rising security concerns in the North of Iraq, specifically in the Mosul and the Nineveh Plain area, we are demanding special allocation of funds towards building and maintaining security forces for the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac People. Their villages and towns are unprotected or at best safeguard by KDP Peshmerghas (Kurdish Militia) who sometimes in the past have used brutal force to victimize and ethnically cleanse their areas.

3) The condition of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians who have fled to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and other surrounding countries must be improved. These poor people live in extreme inhumane conditions. The UNHCR and the U.S. Administration must pay special attention to their plight. We demand expedited processing of those who are most vulnerable, particularly the victims and families of kidnapping, beheading, rape, torture, and threat.

The continued presence of Christianity and other smaller minorities in Iraq is an important and necessary balance for insuring that democracy is fostered and ultimately survive in Iraq.

We thank you for coming here this afternoon. May God bless you and bless our beloved country America so that it may continue to be humanity’s beacon for hope, freedom and justice.