Magazine article The Christian Century

Iraqi Christians Vow to Stay-Despite Bombs

Magazine article The Christian Century

Iraqi Christians Vow to Stay-Despite Bombs

Article excerpt

Syrian Catholic Archbishop Basilios Georges Casmoussa of Mosul, Iraq, had been speaking in Bangkok, Thailand, on a mid-October day to a global gathering of Catholic media specialists about religious coexistence--despite bombings in August that struck five Iraqi churches, killing at least 12 with dozens more wounded. On the next day of the conference. participants learned that five churches in Baghdad were bombed and damaged seriously on October 18.

"There is no alternative to dialogue in a civilized, pluralistic society," Casmoussa had said on October 15. "And religions should play an essential role in this area," he added, saying that the heritage of religious diversity of Iraq had created a richness and dynamism.

Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the recent attacks. But Casmoussa told Catholic News Service that he believed the groups carrying out such attacks hope to speed an exodus of Christians from the beleaguered nation. "Their strategy is to create fear among the Christians and push them out of Iraq."

Some Iraqi church leaders contend they are determined to remain in the country. However, recent surveys indicate that many Iraqis want Islamic religious ideals employed in a new, elected government. Seeing that trend and worried about pushing for an Islamic-influenced government, Bush administration officials are reported to be suggesting strategy to U.S.-friendly political groups in Iraq on how they might counter religions candidates.

Meanwhile, reacting to the mid-October bombings, the Vatican expressed new concern about the late of Iraqi Christian communities, who make up a few hundred thousand of the country's 2,5 million people. As many as 40,000 Christians, by one estimate, are said to have left Iraq since the invasion by the U.S. and its allies in February of 2003.

Following the latest blasts, the Vatican's missionary news agency, Fides, published a dossier of information asking: "What future lies ahead for Christians in Iraq if riffs massacre continues?" The agency reported that leaders of the main Christian communities in Iraq--Chaldean, Assyrian, Latin-rite, Syrian, Armenian, Greek Orthodox and others--had condemned at tacks on Christian or Muslim places of worship aimed at breaking a tradition of peaceful coexistence between believers of both faiths.

"Christians and Muslims have lived here side by side for more than 1,400. …

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