Iraqi bishop warns of effort to empty Middle East of Christians


Rome, Jun 25, 2008 - Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad warned this week that there is an effort underway "to rid the Middle East of Christians." According to the bishop, "The war has destroyed everything and even the tradition of coexistence.One-third of Christians have fled the country because of threats, abuse and violence."

The Italian news agency SIR is reporting that the bishop made his comments in an address to the scientific committee of the Oasis International Study and Research Center, which is meeting in Amman, Jordan, to discuss the situation in Iraq. Bishop Shlemon also mentioned the "kidnapping of men of the Church, like the 16 priests that were kidnapped, some of which were killed, like Archbishop Faraj Rahho of Mosul."

Despite all this, he continued, "God is the source of freedom and truth, and bearing witness to Christ does not mean being a fanatic. Our churches have taken in many during the war, with no distinction of ethnicity or faith. The same is true of our schools and ecclesial institutions. And this allows us to get know our Muslim friends," he said.

However, the bishop continued, we should not forget that "our young people have no hope, they are not accepted. A fleeing Iraqi is taboo. The situation right now is unbearable as well because of the difficulties of daily life: little water, electricity and high prices. Ironically we have all this oil but we are poor."
Bishop Warduni encouraged the continuation of dialogue with Muslims and noted, "There are common beliefs that can serve as starting points: prayer, fasting, eternal life, but we should not ignore the differences," he said.