Iraqi Christian leaders want Baghdad to improve situation of minorities

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The pastor of St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in southern California said that Christians in Iraq “are facing extreme persecution. Some are fleeing without even taking their clothes because of the persecution,” Father Michael Bazzi told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview from El Cajon, Calif., June 30. “Although there needs to be a Christian witness in Iraq, how can people stay if they need ransom money every week and cannot go to church or pray or work?” he asked. His comments followed the release of a statement from 76 Iraqi Christian leaders who convened the second All-Iraqi Christian Leadership Conference June 26 just outside of Mosul, Iraq. The leaders, who came from a variety of churches, political parties and civil groups, and representatives of other minority groups issued a statement appealing to the government in Baghdad to help Iraq’s oppressed minority community. They called for amendments to the country’s constitution that would strengthen minority rights and legislation to implement such constitutional guarantees; financing of programs to assist returning refugees; establishment of a commission for minority affairs to promote peaceful dialogue among religious and ethnic groups; security for vulnerable minority communities; and increased representation of Christians in federal and state parliaments.