By John Newton, reporting from Madrid
Â AN Iraqi bishop at World Youth Day in Madrid has decried the situation of Christians in Iraq following renewed violence in the country.
The Auxiliary Chaldean Bishop of Baghdad, Shlemon Warduni, spoke to Aid to the Church in Need, the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, about the attacks that occurred across Iraq on Monday (15th August).
More than 65 were killed and 50 injured in at least 17 separate attacks in the country, including two in Kut, a city to the south-east of Baghdad.
Â The bishop was critical of the deterioration of security in the country following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
He said: â€œWhy did they come? To do what? They came to give us freedom. The freedom to kill one another.â€
Bishop Warduni went on to bewail the declining Christian presence in the country, as the faithful have fled abroad in response to the violence.
Estimates put the number of Christians in the country as no more than 200,000.
He said: â€œWe are seeing so much immigration â€“ we did see this much immigration in the last 300 years!â€
Bishop Warduni underlined his own determination to stay in the country despite the violence, saying: â€œI am a bishop, I am a shepherd, I must be there until the Lord calls me elsewhere. I will not leave my nation and my peopleâ€
He went on to speak about the faith of the IraqÂ´s Christian community: â€œOur hope is in the Lord alone.
â€œI ask everybody to pray for peace and security and to illuminate the governments to do something good for Iraq and the Middle East.â€
The bishop pointed out that someone has to arm those who carry out acts of violence and condemned countries and corporations who profit from weapons sales.
Hitting out against the arms trade, he said: â€œThe first thing is not to sell armsâ€.
Bishop Warduni went on to describe the need for Christians to trust in Jesus in difficult times.
He said: â€œFor us as Christians our strength is in the Lord. He said â€˜I am with you until the end of the world â€“ do not be afraid.â€™â€
â€œBut in this situation [Christians] may loose hope â€“ but we tell them we must trust in God who says â€˜Do not be afraid, I am with you.â€™â€
The bishop added: â€œIf peace and security come I think things will change.â€
Bishop Warduni went on to thank Aid to the Church in Need for the help they had given to the Church in Iraq.
He said: â€œI thank everybody and pray for everybody at Aid to the Church in Need.â€
He added: â€œI beg you to do all your best for the peace and security â€“ because without that we cannot live.â€
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 â€“ 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 â€œAn outstanding Apostle of Charityâ€, 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 initiativeâ€™s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Needâ€™s Childâ€™s Bible â€“ God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACNâ€™s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charityâ€™s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.