Iraqi Church Leaders: We Want to Speak with Common Voice

Christian Post
Feb 20 2010

Iraqi Church Leaders: We Want to Speak with Common Voice

By Michelle A. Vu|Christian Post Reporter

`In our view, it is a development that augurs as much for the future
of the churches in Iraq as it does for Iraq as a nation,’ said the
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of
Churches, in a statement Thursday.

The Council of Christian Church Leaders of Iraq includes all
patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and heads of churches in the country
from the 14 Christian communities registered in Iraq since 1982. These
Christian communities include the Catholic, Eastern and Oriental
Orthodox as well as Protestant traditions.

The new council says its aim is `to unite the opinion, position and
decision of the Churches in Iraq on issues’ related to churches and
state with the hope of `upholding and strengthening the Christian
presence, promoting cooperation and joint action without interfering
in private matters of the churches or their related entities.’

Iraqi church leaders gathered at the monastery of St. Garabed of the
Armenian Orthodox Church in Baghdad on Feb. 9 to launch the council.
The leaders say they intend to dialogue and form relations with Muslim
brothers and sisters and to promote acceptance of each other’s
religion. The council also intends to address the issue of Christian
education and renew religious curriculum in public schools in
partnership with concerned government institutions.

"Iraqi Christians have never viewed themselves as simply a minority
community who stand for their own interest,’ Tveit noted. `They have
always shown their deep rootedness in the history and civilization of

Chaldo-Assyrians, who make up most of Iraq’s Christian population,
often point out that they are Iraq’s indigenous people, tracing their
history back to Babylonian times. Yet despite their ancient heritage,
Christians in recent years have increasingly become the target of

This week, four Christians, including two students, were killed within
four days in the northern Iraq town of Mosul.

The murders have caused more Iraqi Christian families to plan on
leaving the country.

`It is very difficult to live in this kind of situation,’ said the
Chaldean Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona of Mosul, on Thursday, to the
British branch of the charity Aid to the Church in Need.

`It is panic, panic always,’ he added. `The Christians don’t know what
will happen to them. It is the same everywhere ` in the office, at
school or even at home. They don’t know if somebody is going to kill

He believes what they are seeing with the violence is an effort to
force Christians to leave Mosul.

Nona was installed in January, replacing Archbishop Paulos Faraj
Rahho, who was kidnapped and then found dead in March 2008.

Rahho was the second most senior Catholic cleric in Iraq and his death
sparked outcry from the small Christian community over the increased
violent acts against it.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled Iraq because of the
persecution. It is estimated that Christians account for nearly half
of all refugees leaving the country, although they make up less than
three percent of the country’s population.

There are only about 600,000 Iraqi Christians remaining in the
country, down from 1.2 million before 2003.

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