IRAQ: Bishop denounces extremists' freedom to kill
By John Newton, at World Youth Day in Madrid
Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, Iraq
An Iraqi bishop at World Youth Day in Madrid has decried the situation of Christians in Iraq following renewed violence in the country.
The Auxiliary Chaldean Bishop of Baghdad, Shelmon Warduni, spoke to Aid to the Church in Need about the attacks that occurred across Iraq on Monday (15th August).
More than 65 were killed and 50 injured in at least 17 separate attacks in the country, including two in Kut, a city to the south-east of Baghdad.
The bishop was critical of the deterioration of security in the country following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
He said: "Why did they come? To do what? They came to give us freedom. The freedom to kill one another."
A guard stands on duty outside Saint Ephrem's Syrian Orthodox Church in Kirkuk, Iraq, after it was bombed. Photo © ankawa.com
Security forces use a dog to search St Ephrem's Syrian Orthodox Church in Kirkuk, Iraq, after a bomb damaged the building. Photo © ankawa.com
The bomb attack on St Ephrem's Church in Kirkuk, Iraq, shattered windows and left a large hole in the side of the building. Photo: © ankawa.com
Bishop Warduni went on to bewail the declining Christian presence in the country, as the faithful have fled abroad in response to the violence.
Estimates put the number of Christians in the country as no more than 200,000.
He said: "We are seeing so much emigration – we did not see this much emigration in the last 300 years!"
Bishop Warduni underlined his own determination to stay in the country despite the violence, saying: "I am a bishop, I am a shepherd, I must be there until the Lord calls me elsewhere. I will not leave my nation and my people."
He went on to speak about the faith of Iraq's Christian community, saying: "Our hope is in the Lord alone. I ask everybody to pray for peace and security and to illuminate the governments to do something good for Iraq and the Middle East."
The bishop pointed out that someone must be supplying arms to those who carry out acts of violence. Hecondemned countries and corporations who profit from weapons sales.
Hitting out against the arms trade, he said: "The first thing is not to sell arms."
Bishop Warduni went on to describe the need for Christians to trust in Jesus in difficult times.
He said: "For us as Christians our strength is in the Lord. He said 'I am with you until the end of the world – do not be afraid.'
"But in this situation [Christians] may loose hope – but we tell them we must trust in God who says 'Do not be afraid, I am with you.'"
The bishop added: "If peace and security come I think things will change."
Bishop Warduni went on to thank Aid to the Church in Need for the help they had given to the Church in Iraq.
He said: "I thank everybody and pray for everybody at Aid to the Church in Need."
He added: "I beg you to do all your best for the peace and security – because without that we cannot live."