Chaldean Catholic Leaders Appeal to Prevent Iraq War. (World)

National Catholic Reporter, January 24, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Chaldean Catholic Leaders Appeal to Prevent Iraq War. (World)

Chaldean Catholic church leaders in Iraq and the United States--the two countries that possess the largest Chaldean Catholic populations in the world--have appealed to world leaders to prevent war.

Speaking on Vatican Radio Jan. 9, Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad said war would have a devastating effect on the country, especially because the population is already weakened by more than a decade of U.N. sanctions.

"We don't understand this war. It threatens our children, our elderly, our sick and our young, who for 12 years haven't known anything about their future," he said.

In December, a leaked U.N. planning report estimated that a war against Iraq could cause as many as 500,000 civilian casualties and nearly a million refugees.

Warduni questioned whether Iraq's vast crude oil reserves--the second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia--might not be the real reason behind the West's interest in the country.

"Why come to us? Because we have oil? Let them take the oil, but leave us in peace," he said. "Because we are rich? But this richness has come from God, not us. What is our guilt?"

Pressed by the Vatican Radio interviewer to acknowledge Iraq's international obligations, the bishop said: "Everyone has fault. Everyone has been a cause of past wars and of this one, if it happens."

Warduni said the number of Iraqi Christians had shrunk because of mass emigrations since the 1991 Gulf War.

"Unfortunately; many of our young people have a dark future before them," he said.

Vatican Radio said Christians in Iraq number about 670,000, or about 3 percent of the population, and a large majority of them are Catholic.

The Chaldean Catholic church is one of the seven non-Latin traditions in communion with Rome. While most of its members live in Iraq, approximately 160,000 now live in the United States. Of that number about 100,000 live in the Detroit area.

The biggest concern for Chaldean Catholics in the Detroit area is that their new country may soon be at war with their homeland. Most still have family there, said Chaldean Catholic Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, head of the Michigan-based Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, which serves Chaldean Catholics in the eastern United States.

Ibrahim, 65, has been in the United States since 1978, when he was appointed associate pastor of a Chaldean Catholic parish in the San Diego area. "Do I agree that Iraq should have weapons of mass destruction?" he asked. "Neither Iraq nor [any] other country in the region should have weapons of mass destruction."

But whether Iraq even has such weapons is another question. He said America should let the U.N. inspection process take its course.

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