ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome
U.S. Bishops: Religious Minorities Declining in Iraq
Sent Letter of Concern to Secretary of State
WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 31, 2006 (Zenit.org).- U.S. bishops have asked the
country's secretary of state to consider measures that would help improve
the deteriorating situation for Christians and other religious minorities
In a letter to Condoleezza Rice, Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the episcopal
conference's Committee on International Policy, notes that Christians in
Iraq continue to decline from a prewar population of 1.2 million to a current
estimate of 600,000.
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, over 40% of Iraqi refugees
are Christian even though they represent only about 4% of Iraq's total population.
"The growing and deliberate targeting of Christians is an ominous sign of
the breakdown in Iraqi society of civil order and interreligious respect
and represents a grave violation of human rights and religious liberty,"
said Bishop Wenski of Orlando, Florida.
Pointing to recent violence against Christians, such as the beheading of
a Syriac Orthodox priest in Mosul and the crucifixion of a Christian teenager
in Albasra, the prelate said that the "vulnerability of Christians and other
religious minorities is dramatic evidence of the serious and growing security
challenges facing the entire nation of Iraq."
The bishop urged the U.S. government to consider the creation of a new "administrative
region" in the Nineveh Plain Area that would be directly related to the central
government in Baghdad, and to work with Kurdish authorities to ensure the
safety of Christians in the Plain of Nineveh and to provide protection and
assistance for religious minorities in areas directly under Kurdish control.
Bishop Wenski also urged a more generous refugee and asylum policy, including
the possible resettlement of at-risk cases to the United States, and a review
of economic reconstruction aid programs to ensure that aid is distributed
fairly to all elements of Iraqi society.