Demonstration in Brussels against Persecution of Iraqi Christians

broksl2.JPGDan Wooding /ASSIST News Service
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), nearly 4,000 people demonstrated in Brussels on Saturday (April 19, 2008) against violence perpetrated against Iraqi Christians in the strife-torn country, according to police and organizers.

Protestors, mainly Iraqi Christians, came from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland to participate in the march through the heart of Brussels’ EU quarter, organizers said.

The AFP story stated that the demonstration was aimed at drawing attention to attacks on Christians in Iraq, said Fikri Aygur, vice chairman of the European Syriac Union, organizers of the march.

“We wanted to call on the US, the EU and the UN to find a solution for the Christians,” he told AFP.

The march was supposed to start in front of the US embassy in Brussels, but police did not allow it because of the large numbers, Aygur said.

“Iraq’s Christians, with the Chaldeans being the largest community, were said to total as many as 800,000 before the US-led invasion in 2003 but the number is now thought to be half that figure,” said AFP.

“Widespread persecution including the bombing of churches and the murder of priests has forced hundreds of thousands to flee, mostly to neighboring countries or to Kurdish northern Iraq.”

The story went on to say that in February the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was kidnapped. His corpse was found the following month.

Earlier this month, gunmen shot dead Assyrian Orthodox priest Youssef Adel near his house in the centre of the Iraqi capital as he left home.

On Friday (April 18) in Luxembourg, the European Union’s Slovenian presidency rejected a German proposal to offer preferential asylum treatment to Iraqi Christians.

“German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wanted to persuade other EU countries to offer asylum to thousands of Iraq’s minority Christians because of violence against them in majority-Muslim Iraq,” said the AFP story.

“His plan was initially mooted by Germany’s Catholic and Protestant churches who are powerful allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party.”

Note: Agence France-Presse (AFP) is the oldest news agency in the world, and one of the three largest with Associated Press and Reuters. It is also the largest French news agency.

© 2008 ASSIST News Service, used with permission