Azpiroz Costa Implores Pontiff to Speak Out
on Behalf of Iraqi
SABINA - June 5, 2007--As Pope Benedict XVI prepares to meet with
President George W. Bush, June 9th during his visit to Europe for
the G-8 Summit, Master of the Order, fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa has
asked the pope to intervene on behalf of the safety of persecuted
Christians in Iraq.
In a letter prepared May 24th, fr. Carlos expressed his "grave
concern" for the
"security, and the future, of our Dominican Family members and
the entire Christian community in Iraq." He asked the pope to intercede
directly with President Bush on behalf of those threatened with
violence and who are being killed, kidnapped and terrorized.
He said in the letter "I am writing
to ask for your personal intervention and that of the Holy See
on the Government of Iraq, the United Nations, the coalition
armies and militant factions there to assure the protection of
Iraq’s ancient Christian community. This
community is under daily threat and have neither the protection
of the government nor of the coalition forces."
Leaders of Iraq's Christian community
estimate that over two-thirds of the country's Christian population
has fled the country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Recent reports demonstrate a dramatic increase in the persecution
of the Christian minority in Iraq including Dominican communities
of sisters, friars and laity. On Sunday, June 3rd a Catholic priest,
Fr Ragheed Ganni, 34, and three deacons were gunned down in front
of Holy Spirit Church, Mosul. Their bodies were left in the street
for several hours because people were afraid to tend to them.
While exact numbers are unknown, reports
suggest that whole neighborhoods of Christians have cleared out
in the cities of Baghdad and Al-Basrah, and that both Sunni and
Shi'ite insurgent groups and militias have threatened Christians.
The gravity of the situation prompted Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali
al-Sistani last week to ask Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi to
take steps to protect the Christian community. Sunni imams in Baghdad
have made similar statements to their congregations in Friday Prayer
sermons. But there is little the government of Iraq can do to protect
Dominican Order has been present in Iraq for over 250 years. Dominican
friars, two congregations of sisters and hundreds of lay Dominicans
live there. Many of them have fled to small villages outside of
the larger cities in an effort to find safety.
Insurgents laid siege to the Al-Durah neighborhood of Baghdad earlier
this month and demanded that Christians living there pay jizya,
a head tax on non-Muslims living under Muslim rule, to the mujahedin
or else convert to Islam. The Islamic State also hung posters throughout
Al-Durah calling on Christian women to veil their faces. Locals
report that nearly 200 Christian families have fled the neighborhood
recently with just the clothes on their backs.
In other cases, families have been given 72 hours to pack their
belongings and leave. Some have fled to Kurdistan, but the majority
have left for Syria and Jordan, Christian leaders say.
Sources: RadioFreeEurope, CNS, CNN, International Justice Promoters]
Anne Lythgoe, OP
of the letter from fr. Carlos to Benedict XVI
US Dominicans are being urged by the
International Justice Promoters to
contact local bishop, presidents of national
conferences of bishoops and the papal nucio urging them
to voice their concern about the deteriorating situation of the Christian
minority in Iraq. READ
Dominicans for Justice and Peace and the Dominican
Leadership Conference petitioned the United Nations
Human Rights Council to address the basic human needs
of refugees and displaced people in Iraq and the region.
Continues to Escalate
Chaldean Priest and Three Deacons Killed in Mosul
June 4, 2007-- Fr Ragheed Ganni, 34, was hit by gunfire in front
of the Church of the Holy Spirit and three deacons, who served as
his aides, were also killed. The murder took place after Sunday Mass
where Father Ragheed was parish priest. Sources report that hours
later the bodies were still lying in the street because no one dared
retrieve them. Tensions in the area remain high. Pope Benedict expressed
his sadness at their deaths. READ