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WASHINGTON (November 10, 2010) — Following the October 31 assault on the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad and subsequent violence, Chicago Cardinal Francis George, OMI, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged President Obama to “take additional steps now to help Iraq protect its citizens, especially Christians and others who are victims of organized attacks.”
“Having invaded Iraq, our nation has a moral obligation not to abandon those Iraqis who cannot defend themselves,” Cardinal George wrote in a November 9 letter. At a minimum, he said the U.S. must work with Iraqis and the international community to: “enable the Iraqi government to function for the common good of all Iraqis; build the capacity of Iraq’s military and police to provide security for all citizens, including minorities; improve the judicial system and rule of law; promote reconciliation and the protection of human rights, especially religious freedom; rebuild Iraq’s shattered economy so that Iraqis can support their families; and assist refugees and internally displaced Iraqis.”
Full text of the letter follows:
Dear Mr. President:
The October 31 attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad that killed 58 and wounded 75, together with the recent wave of bombings in Iraq’s capital, are grim evidence of the savage violence and lack of security that has plagued the Iraqi people, especially Christians and other minorities, for over seven years. Some reports even indicate that the October 31 attack may have been more extensive and the failures of security more egregious than originally thought. Enclosed you will find a press release by the Most Reverend Yousif Habash, Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark for Syrian Catholics.
In the recent Synod of Bishops on the Middle East in Rome, the bishops from Iraq spoke of the terrifying situation facing Christians and other minorities in that country. They recalled murders, kidnappings, bombings, and naked threats that have forced many Christians from their homes and businesses. Ironically, just two weeks before the October 31 attack, Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of the Syrian Catholic Church in Iraq, whose cathedral was the site of the October 31 attack, addressed the Synod: “The invasion of Iraq by America and its allies brought to Iraq in general, and especially to its Christians, destruction and ruin on all levels. … Seven years have passed and Christianity is still bleeding. Where is the world conscience? All the world remains a spectator before what is happening in Iraq, especially with regards to Christians.”
Archbishop Matoka’s strong words remind us of the moral responsibility that the United States bears for working effectively with the Iraqi government to stem the violence. Prior to the war, our Conference of Bishops raised grave moral questions regarding the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Iraq and warned of “unpredictable consequences.” The decimation of the Christian community in Iraq and the continuing violence that threatens all Iraqis are among those tragic consequences.
Our troops have served with bravery and distinction, and we welcome the end of U.S.-led combat in Iraq; however, the United States has so far failed in helping Iraqis to develop the political will needed to deploy effective strategies to protect the lives of all citizens, especially Christians and other vulnerable minorities. More must be done to help ensure that refugees and displaced persons are able to return to their homes safely. Having invaded Iraq, our nation has a moral obligation not to abandon those Iraqis who cannot defend themselves.
The murderous attack on innocent Christians gathered for worship witnesses to the need for the United States to redouble its efforts to assist Iraq as our engagement enters a new phase. At a minimum, our country must strengthen its work with Iraqis and the international community to: enable the Iraqi government to function for the common good of all Iraqis; build the capacity of Iraq’s military and police to provide security for all citizens, including minorities; improve the judicial system and rule of law; promote reconciliation and the protection of human rights, especially religious freedom; rebuild Iraq’s shattered economy so that Iraqis can support their families; and assist refugees and internally displaced Iraqis.
To meet its moral obligations to the Iraqi people, it is critically important that the United States take additional steps now to help Iraq protect its citizens, especially Christians and others who are victims of organized attacks. Thank you for your kind consideration of this urgent request.
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago
Keywords: Cardinal Francis George, OMI, president, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, U.S. bishops, President Barack Obama, letter, November 9, Iraq, attack, Syrian Catholic Cathedral
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