THE Archbishop of Canterbury has called for an end to “sacrilegious butchery” after the violence targeted at Christian districts in Baghdad last week, and the siege at the Sayyidat al-Najat (Lady of our Salvation) Syrian Catholic church earlier this month, which killed more than 50 people (News 12 November).
In a statement issued on Friday, Dr Williams said that the killings “demonstrated a new low point of Christian vulnerability in the country”, and that the “slaughter of unarmed people gathered in church to worship God” was “a shocking and disgraceful act that should be utterly condemned by people of all faiths and none”.
Dr Williams said that he was praying for Iraqi Christian communities around the world, and for “those in Iraq who will live in greater fear not only because of this appalling event but also because of the continuing threats directed against them all. We hope and pray . . . that there may be an end to this kind of sacrilegious butchery and to all intimidation and violence against Christians and other minorities in Iraq.”
Canon Andrew White, Chaplain of St George’s, Baghdad, who was overseas when the attack on the church took place, said that after three days of quiet there had been more violence. This week, the church’s security chief was attacked, and another member of the congregation was killed. The car of the Minister for Human Rights, Wijdan Salim, was also targeted, and her driver was killed. Mrs Salim was not in the car at the time.
Canon White said that they had “thought things had been better for three days; now they are bad again. The pain is so real, but we will not stop.”
The charity Iraqi Christians in UK, a network of naturalised British citizens of Iraqi origin, has written to the Prime Minister with a petition urging the Government to adopt an “exceptional open-arms policy” on asylum to Christians from Iraq.
The letter says that Iraqi Christians are now being perceived as “natural allies of the West for sharing the same religion”, leading to the current wave of religious persecution. The majority of religious leaders in Iraq are calling for Christians to stay in the country, but this was “proving impossible”. Two more Christians were reported to have been killed in the city of Mosul this week.
The Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Alan Harper, described the attacks as “deeply troubling”, and called for prayers to be “redoubled” for the Christian community in Iraq, which is “arguably the most vulnerable segment of Iraqi society”.
About 30 Iraqi Christians who were victims of the church attack have been flown to Rome, at the request of the Vatican, to receive medical treatment and asylum. The French government is to grant asylum to about 150 Iraqi Christians.