Bishop From Iraq Pleads for Support
Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, right, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, take questions from U.S. bishops during the bishops’ mid-year meeting in Atlanta 13 June. Bishop Warduni discussed the issues facing Christians in Iraq and other places in the Middle East. (Photo: CNS/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)
15 Jun 2012 By Dennis Sadowski
ATLANTA (CNS) — Making an impassioned plea
on behalf of Iraq’s dwindling Christian population,
Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad
called upon the U.S. bishops to press the Obama
administration to take steps to protect religious rights in
the Middle Eastern country.
Speaking June 13 during the spring general
assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the
cleric from Iraq said the country’s Christians are being
targeted by Muslim extremists bent on ridding the country
of all religious minorities.
He said in the session presented by the bishops’
Committee on International Justice and Peace that the
difficulties Christians face emerged only after the 2003
U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
“As leaders of the church in the United States,” he
told the bishops, “you bear a special responsibility toward
the people and Christians of Iraq. In 2003, your
government led the war that brought some terrible
consequences. The U.S. government can and must do all it
can to encourage tolerance and respect in Iraq, to help Iraq
strengthen the rule of law and to provide assistance that
helps create jobs for Iraqis, especially those on the
“Many times we ask, ‘Where can we find justice
and peace?’ Our Lord says, “I give you my peace, but not
like the world gives.” The peace of Jesus is love. This love
guides us to unity, because love works miracles, and
builds justice and peace. This can be realized when all the
church works together in one heart and one thought,” the
“We beg you to do something for us,” he
continued. "We want only peace, security and freedom.
You can tell everybody Iraq was very rich, but now is
very poor, because of the war and much discrimination.
We want to cry out to you: we want peace, justice,
stability, freedom of religion. No more war, no more
death, no more explosions, no more injustice. Please help
us talk to everybody. Push the cause of peace.
Bishop Warduni cited brutal attacks on churches
as tragic, including the October 2010 assault on the Syriac
Catholic Church of Our Lady of Deliverance that claimed
58 lives. He said incidents have forced more than half of
Iraq’s Christians to flee to neighboring countries, reducing
the Chaldean population to about 400,000.
Since 2003, one bishop, a priest and six
subdeacons have been killed, he said, while another 15
clergy have been kidnapped and released only after large
ransoms were paid. Bishop Warduni said several of the
kidnapped priests were tortured during their captivity.
He said Muslims have forced Christians living in
Dora, a Christian section of Baghdad, to leave their homes
or to pay “jizya,” a fine levied on non-Muslims who
choose to live in an Islamic society. He pointed to similar
attacks in Mosul in northern Iraq and in other cities.
“They forced our Christian daughters to marry
Muslims, even the princes of al-Qaida. They said to
Christians, ‘Become Muslims or be killed.’ As a result,
many Christians escaped the area and went to the North or
fled outside of Iraq,” Bishop Warduni said.
Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Iraq Chaldeans