Bishop criticizes British policy of repatriating Iraqi refugees

450×300_cns_129941.jpgResidents carry the coffin of a victim killed in the Oct. 31 violence in a Syrian Catholic church during a funeral at St. Joseph Chaldean Church in Baghdad Nov. 2. In a special Mass at London’s Westminster Cathedral Nov. 26, a British bishop denounced his government’s policy of repatriating Iraqi Christians fleeing persecution, saying claims that Iraq was now a safe country were untrue. (CNS photo/Thaier al-Sudani, Reuters)Posted: 12/3/2010 LONDON (CNS) — A British bishop has criticized his government’s policy of repatriating Iraqi Christians fleeing persecution, saying it was not true that Iraq was safe.

In a special Mass at London’s Westminster Cathedral Nov. 26, Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham, England, denounced the policy. The Mass was celebrated for the victims of the Oct. 31 massacre at Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic Church, where 58 people died as military officials tried to end a terrorist siege.

“We know the situation of our brothers and sisters still in Iraq who wake at night frightened by the knock at the door, the unusual sound, the gunshot or the explosion, the knowledge that few if any will defend them, the constant fear and tension of not knowing what will happen next,” Bishop Kenney said in his homily.

“We who are here in England are angry when our government said … that it was safe for people to be repatriated to Iraq,” he told a congregation drawn largely from London’s Iraqi Christian community. “You know in a way few others do how untrue that is.

“Our emotions are of deep sorrow and possibly also of anger: anger that innocent people are killed in this way, that our friends, our relations are sacrificed for, at best, short-term political gain, and, at worst, for no real reason at all, other than that they are followers of Jesus Christ.”

He said the Christian people of Iraq were dying for their faith as martyrs and that he had known personally some of those killed in anti-Christian violence in Mosul and Baghdad.

Martyrdom “is something that the church in England and Wales understands,” said the bishop, who was forced to cancel a December trip to Iraq because of the security situation. “The church in these countries is built on the witness of those put to death because they would not renounce their faith.

“Today, it is not only our relations and friends whom we have come to mourn,” he said. “We have also come to honor them as people who have been killed because of their faith.”

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