Iraqi Christians are defenseless, says top clergyman

By Kareem Zair / Azzaman, March 5, 2008
Iraqi Christians are target of oppression from religious militias and despite their suffering there is no one to defend them, said Patriarch Amaneul Dali, the head of the Chaldean Catholic community in Iraq.

He said neither U.S. troops nor the Iraqi government were concerned about Iraqi Christians, their churches or monasteries.

The top clergyman, who is also the head of the Iraqi church with its different denominations, made the remarks when asked about the fate of a Chaldean Catholic bishop unidentified gunmen abducted four days ago as he left a church in the northern city of Mosul.

Dali would not comment on the kidnapped Bishop Paulus Raho, but was critical particularly of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for ‘reneging on promises’ to protect the Christian minority.

Mosul had a sizeable Christian community but many of them have begun fleeing the city following the abduction of Raho whose whereabouts and well-being are not known

Dali’s representative at the Holy See in Rome, the Reverent Philip Najem, said thousands of Christians in Mosul have received threats of death and that numerous churches have been closed.

The Chaldeans are the majority among Iraqi Christians who have been fleeing the country in droves since the arrival of U.S. occupation troops.

Since the U.S. invasion, three priests have been killed and 10 others were kidnapped and only released after paying hefty ransoms, Philip said.

Raho is the second Iraqi bishop to be kidnapped