Baghdad cardinal speaks about Iraq tragedy

VATICAN CITY
Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, Iraq, said he hoped the tragedy of violence and threats against Christians in Mosul finally would spur world leaders to work together to bring peace to his country.

The Chaldean Catholic patriarch, who was attending the Oct. 5-26 Synod of Bishops on the Bible, said he was thankful for the increased attention and concern for the plight of his country's Christians.

"But I would have liked this (concern) to be shown before the last minute," he said in an Oct. 23 interview with Catholic News Service.

Perhaps the recent events in Mosul were "divine providence in order to wake up people a bit from their deep sleep," he said.

The cardinal expressed sadness over what he viewed as a chronic lack of concern and concrete action to stop the violence and protect all of Iraq's citizens.

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Saying he was referring to "not just the Americans, but the whole international community," the cardinal said, "Up to now you have been silent and you have not spoken about us despite all of the sufferings we have had to bear the past three or four years and more than half a century."

Iraq is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, he said, despite being rich in natural resources such as water and petroleum.

The cardinal called on people not to be "greedy toward their brothers and sisters who live in a foreign country like Iraq," but for politicians and people of good will to band together for the good of all humanity.

The patriarch said what Iraq needs is not just material aid, but the concerted "moral support" of all world leaders to ensure peace and normality return as soon as possible.

Greater attention and pressure are needed so that the Iraqi government can "be just and fulfill its duty toward its citizens," he said.

The rights of all Iraqis, including those of the Christian minority, must be protected, he said. "We Christians don't want privileges; we want our rights in full, and our rights are to live in peace and tranquillity," and to have the same rights as "our fellow Muslim, Arab, Kurdish brothers and sisters," he said.

The Iraqi government "wants to do the right thing," but it is weak and unable to carry out its promises, said Cardinal Delly. The government "must be supported," not just by the United States, but by the whole world; even the smallest or poorest nation could do something, he said.

Just as a building that is abandoned is more likely to be vandalized, Iraq needs to be kept on the world's radar and its future at the top of the agenda, he said.

He said that, unfortunately, there are people in Iraq who do not have the country's best interests at heart, but perhaps that would change "when they see the whole world loves Iraq and then they, too, will love their fellow brother and sisters with whom they have lived for many years."

Cardinal Delly said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with his auxiliary, Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, and other Christian leaders for talks in Baghdad Oct. 22.

Concerning the violence and mass emigration of Christians from Mosul, the prime minister promised the Christian delegation "he would do whatever was possible because he himself said Iraq cannot live without its Christians," the cardinal said.

Cardinal Delly said that while he has been at the synod he has been expressing his concerns through letters to Iraq's top leaders, including the leading Shiite religious authority, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Bishop Warduni met with the ayatollah Oct. 21, the cardinal said, adding that the Shiite leader promised to tell his followers that Iraqi Christians and Muslims "are brothers and sisters in this country."


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