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Bishop Says Baghdad Christians are ‘Terrorized and Deeply Distressed’

© KARIM SAHIB / AFP
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Rumor: ISIS is already in the suburbs of the capital.

NEW YORK (June 18, 2014)—"We fear a civil war. If the various different opposing internal parties do not succeed in finding an agreement, then we must expect the worst. Another war would mean the end, especially for us Christians." This was the message from Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Syroub of Baghdad in an interview with international charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Bishop Syroub believes the present crisis in Iraq is a direct consequence of the US invasion of 2003 as well as of the inefficiency of the new democratic system "which cannot function if there is no true reconciliation.” For this reason, he said, rather than an external military intervention, the Church leadership would prefer to see greater pressure applied by the international community, and by the United States in particular, to persuade the various internal factions within the country to reach an accord. 

"More than a week has passed since the invasion of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and still there is no common political plan. Only an Iraq based on consent and reconciliation within can react to external dangers. Shi’ites and Sunnis have to understand that nothing will be resolved by violence."

Bishop Syroub returned to Baghdad just this morning from a foreign trip, which he interrupted "in order to be close to my community at such a difficult time.” The situation in the capital is abnormally quiet. There are not many cars or people in the streets, even though it is a working weekday. "Everyone is afraid and people prefer to stay at home", he said, "while others have left the city.”

The bishop reported on unconfirmed rumors that some of the northern suburbs of Baghdad may already be in the hands of the ISIS militia who may have imposed a curfew and be preventing the inhabitants from travelling to other areas of the city.

Meanwhile, for the past five days the government has blocked access to various Internet sites, including the main e-mail servers and all the social networks, thereby "preventing us from communicating with the outside world,” the bishop said.

The Christians are "terrorized and deeply distressed" and many of them are asking for their baptismal certificates, so that they can leave the capital. "After more than 2,000 years during which we have withstood obstacles and persecutions, Iraq is today almost emptied of its Christian presence,” said Bishop Syroub. "Our young people are abandoning the country, and we can do nothing about it. Besides, what reason can we possibly give them for staying? How can we protect them and assure them that the future will be better?"


Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)

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