Iraq: Christian leader warns against security “vacuum”

9685743.jpgRome, (AKI) – A prominent Iraqi archbishop on Monday warned foreign leaders against creating “a security vacuum” when allied troops withdraw from Iraq. “In Iraq it is important not to create a security vacuum also in regard to the process of reconstruction,” said Jean Benjamin Sleiman, the Latin-rite archbishop of Baghdad.

Sleiman was attending an event entitled, ‘The Value of the Church in the Middle East’, organised by the Italy-based rights group Comunita di Sant’ Egidio, in the Italian capital Rome.

According to Sleiman, the process of reconstruction in Iraq “even though it has begun, is still small”. He stressed it was important that the administration of United States president Barack Obama did not create a “vacuum” in Iraq.

For the Baghdad archbishop, the process of reconstruction is like therapy for the ill. “If they are not cured well and completely, the relapse will be even worse,” he said.

He said radical elements exist in Iraq, but the last elections have rewarded the moderates and secular candidates and this was a positive sign.

Sleiman said the Christian community in Iraq (photo), however, had to rediscover its true identity and not “always be overwhelmed by fear”.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee Iraq since the allied invasion of March 2003 to escape the violence and the economic crisis caused by the war.

Recent provincial polls were considered a key test of Iraq’s stability after years of sectarian strife, as 140,000 US troops are preparing to leave the country by the end of 2011.