Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

A Plea from Iraq's Christians

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

A Plea from Iraq's Christians

Article excerpt

ROME * Though Christians are disappearing in many parts of the Middle East, nowhere has the decimation been as dramatic as Iraq, where Christians suffer both from the general violence and chaos as well as from targeted attacks by extremists.

When four Iraqis met the press during the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, their cri de coeur was perhaps best expressed by Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad.

"Take our wealth," Warduni said, "but leave us in peace."

Anan Lewis, a laywoman who works with the Chaldean church in Baghdad, said that before the first Gulf War in 1991, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in the country. Today the total is somewhere between 400,000 and a half million, meaning that Iraq has lost more than two-thirds of its Christian population in the span of just two decades.

Dominican Fr. Sameer Shaba Maroki said that Christians have become an "easy target," insisting that there is a deliberate campaign to attack the Christian population.

Maroki pointed to kidnappings, which he said have struck a large percentage of Christian families and even some clergy. Two Iraqi bishops have been kidnapped, Maroki said, with one returned who has never confirmed whether a ransom was paid, and another killed. He said more than 10 priests were also kidnapped and tortured, "and still bear the marks on their hands and their bodies."

Since most Christians know at least one family that has gone through the experience, Maroki said, many have decided to leave before it can happen to them. …

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