Open letter to the Bishop of Auckland Catholic Diocese, Patrick Dunn, sent by Fr Fawzi Koro on behalf of NZ Iraqi Christian community

 Dear Most Rev. Bishop Patrick Dunn,
Bishop of Auckland Diocese,
Greetings to you in the Lord Jesus Christ and peace be upon you,
I am writing this open letter to you on behalf of my community here in New Zealand and on behalf of all the Christians in Iraq to tell you of our great sorrow and sadness that came upon us when we heard and saw the news of the tragedy that occurred about a week ago in Baghdad, Iraq. This is regarding the forcible entry and taking of hostages in the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation (Sayidat al-Nejat) by Islamic extremists in Iraq who call themselves “the Islamic State of Iraq”, the local branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq. This had occurred on Sunday 31 October during an evening mass service at the Cathedral.

The church had more than 120 people in its congregation during that mass with 3 priests serving. As the extremist group entered the building they started shooting and killing the attendees including the priests. After a few hours when the Iraqi Police and Army personnel finally arrived to enter the building to release the hostages, some of the extremists blew their suicide vests to injure and kill as many as possible of the police and the Christian congregation. At the end of the night, as many as 60 people were dead including many young men, women and children as well as the 3 priests and more than 70 others were injured with some dying later in hospitals.

I want to ask you to please inform all the priests and churches in the diocese to pray for the innocent martyrs of our church in Iraq and all others who are dying daily in such heinous crimes in Iraq. This has been a sad week for our homeland, Iraq, and for the Christians of Iraqi origin in the Diaspora.

Many churches around the world are holding days of prayer for peace in Iraq, the land of Abraham, of Ur and Babylon of the Chaldeans and of Nineveh where the prophet Jonah went to preach repentance. We ask you to hold such a day for prayer for peace in our homeland and of all the countries where extremists are killing and persecuting Christians especially those in the Middle East where Christianity was born and now that it is so close to Christmas. The Christian faithful in those lands are being forced to leave their homelands after such attacks on their churches, targeted assassinations against their bishops, priests and religious and against the faithful.

We ask you and all the faithful in Auckland to pray with us to the Lord our God, for peace and stability to return to our homeland, Iraq, and for God to give eternal rest to the innocent martyrs of Christianity in Iraq. That Almighty God enlightens the eyes and minds of the extremists and criminals so that they do not kill others in His name and to stop these genocidal attacks against our minority Christian groups in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.

We ask you on our behalf, to invite the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference to issue a statement in relation to this incident where it will be seen as supporting the cause of Christians of Iraq to live in peace and harmony in their homeland and to mention some steps to help those Christians who have fled Iraq after such attacks and who seek refuge in Western countries including New Zealand. Our small but faithful community needs your urgent help and the help of all Catholics in New Zealand to support the cause of Iraqi Christians especially after the recent conclusion of the Special Assembly of the Middle East Synod of Bishops that was held in Rome during 10-24 October 2010.

Finally, I want to thank you for your continuing support of our community here in Auckland and thank the rest of the Bishops of New Zealand where our community members live and pray in their churches to especially mention those in Hamilton and Wellington and their bishops, Dennis Brown and Archbishop John Dew, respectively.

Thank you and may God’s blessings be upon you and may you continue in your faithful service to His people.

Your brother in Christ,

Rev. Fr. Fawzi Koro

Parish Priest

St Addai the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Parish

Auckland, New Zealand

6 November 2010