By: Jurgen Liminski and John Pontifex
Â Archbishop Nona of Mosul, Archbishop Warda of Erbil, Hermann Van Rompuy (President, Council of Europe), JÃ¼rgen Liminski (ACN Director of Information) Johannes von Habsburg (Catholic Radio & TV Network)
The plight of Christians in Iraq has been highlighted in a meeting between two leading bishops from the country and the President of the Council of Europe, Hermann Van Rompuy.
In their meeting with Mr Van Rompuy on Tuesday, 13 September, Archbishops Bashar Warda of Erbil and Amil Nona of Mosul said there was no religious freedom in Iraq.
The two Chaldean-rite bishops stressed the need for Christians to receive help to build schools, saying that with Muslims filling 90 percent of places available, Church-run education schemes benefitted the whole of society.
Archbishop Warda said: “Education would help to develop a new culture as well as freedom of religion, opening up new perspectives for young people.”
The half-hour meeting in Brussels took place in the framework of visits organised by Aid to the Church in Need.
During the discussions, Mr Rompuy asked about people’s living conditions in Iraq, women’s rights and how Europe could help. Both bishops have given bold witness to the suffering of Christians and others in Iraq.
Christians and church buildings in Archbishop Nona’s Archdiocese of Mosul have come under repeated attack and his own predecessor, Archbishop Boulos Faraj Rahho died in captivity in March 2008.
Speaking in March in London at the launch of Aid to the Church in Need’s ‘Persecuted and Forgotten?’ report on oppressed Christians, Archbishop Warda stated that since 2003 up to 500 Christians had been killed for specifically religious or political reasons.
He added that over the same period 66 churches had been attacked and that 4,000 Iraqi Christian families had fled to his diocese of Erbil in Kurdish northern Iraq to escape violence and intimidation.
In the meeting with Mr Van Rompuy, both bishops highlighted human rights concerns stemming from Article Three of Iraq’s constitution, which enshrines the supremacy of Islamic Shari’a law.
Archbishop Warda said: “Article Three of Iraq’s constitution grants primacy to Islamic Shari’a law â€“ no legislation is permitted to violate the Shari’a.”
The bishops also met Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), European Union Commission officials and Hans-Gert PÃ¶ttering, the former President of the European Parliament and present Chairman of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The meetings demonstrate the EU’s growing concern about Christians in the Middle East.