Beirut (AsiaNews) – The hostage taking incident at Baghdad’s Saydet el-Najat (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) Cathedral and the subsequent bloodbath have confirmed some of the worst fears expressed by some of the ‘Fathers’ who took part in the recently concluded Special Synod of the Bishops of the Catholic Church in the Middle East. The whole region has become to some extent inhospitable for Christians, which means that Christians who opt for emigration are making the right choice.
|(Photo Source: AsiaNews)|
As expected, Lebanese political leaders have reacted to the atrocities, as they are wont to do, with verbal condemnations that are as strong as they are gratuitous.
Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination in the country, has been more practical. Anticipating a new wave of Christians fleeing Iraq, a delegation that included a US Chaldean bishop, Mgr Ibrahim Ibrahim, has been touring the region. Its first stop was at the Maronite Patriarch’s Residence in Bkerke in Lebanon, followed by visits to Amin Gemayel and Samir Geagea.
The delegation asked the Maronite patriarch, former President Gemayel and Geagea to make sure that fleeing Christians are welcomed in Lebanon and treated with greater humanity. “In this country, there are 6,000 to 7,000 Iraqi refugees and their situation leaves a lot to be desired. However, we count on people of good will, in Lebanon, to help them overcome their difficulties and become self-sufficient,” Bishop Ibrahim said.
In his view, “the Iraqi government, the United States and the United Nations” bear “full responsibility” for the Baghdad massacre. “In the name of what religion are the meek of the earth massacred?” he asked.
After receiving the Chaldean delegation, Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces, appealed to the Iraqi government, the Arab League and the Security Council, urging everyone “to do their duty” towards Iraq’s “defenceless” Christian minorities.
“Imperialist action” for Kabalan
“Not in the name of Islam,” said Abdel Amir Kabalan, vice chairman of the Higher Shia Council, who said that his religion “condemns any attack or aggression against human beings.”
“In the East, Muslims and Christians must continue living together as brothers.” For this reason, he urged Iraqi Christians to “hang onto their land” and “not submit to people who are fighting Islam and Christianity by means meant to distract attention.” In his view, the attack is an “imperialist action”.
The speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, said, “After the synod [. . .], the circles of dialogue will multiply. The East will once more show that it is a model of coexistence among religions. However, the attack has demonstrated [. . .] that some people are bent on destroying this civilised image of Islamic-Christian relations”.
In a communiqué released yesterday, Hizbollah said that such attacks “were unheard off before the Americans’ occupation, who are working to reawaken and expand confessional and sectarian sensitivities.” For the self-styled ‘party of God’, the attack “bears the clear and hypocritical hallmark of Zionism, because the Zionist project has always had as an objective e the fragmentation of the region in entities that are hostile to one another in order to impose a single hegemony.”
Meeting for concerted action in Saida
The Iraqi issue is the topic of discussion for today’s monthly meeting of Muslim and Christian religious leaders organised by Ms Bahia Hariri in the city of Saida.
The religious and secular leaders of Lebanon’s Syriac community, the leadership of the Kataeb party and the Higher Greek-catholic Council have also condemned the attack.
However, in an unusual statement, the Syriac Union, through its chief Ibrahim Mrad, urged Iraqi Christians to “arm and defend themselves” as they wait for a “realist” solution to their problem, a solution that would “include setting aside an autonomous territory for Christians” that “would enable them to remain attached to their land and history.”