Iraq: priest appeals for prayers from world's Christians

 A priest in Baghdad has appealed to the international community for help as attacks on his parishioners increase. Speaking from Mosul after five churches were bombed on Saturday, Fr Nizar Semaan, told Fides: "Fundamentalist criminals continue to attack our churches which have always been places of peace and symbols of traditional peaceful co-existence among Christians and Muslims in Iraq. I would make it clear that the message preached in Christian churches is always of peace and encouragement to people to live in harmony indeed our churches are among the few places where people speak with hope for a better future for Iraq." He said: "There are two options. Either we leave our country and this is the choice of a few who say with deep regret and tears and doubts because where can we go? Western countries would not allow us to enter and we would be clandestine emigrants, without identity, or we stay and be massacred." "This second choice is unacceptable. I think of our young people who want to live and their only thought is to emigrate. We keep trying to offer them reasons for hope but these latest acts of barbarism leave us speechless." Father Nizar appeals to Christians everywhere: "Where are you? And even if you are watching at a distance, do you feel solidarity or only pity, couldn't you do something more?" "In his teaching the Pope urges us to work for peace and harmony. Therefore you cannot abandon in the hands of these terrorists; we do not need words, we need concrete help so that we can stay in this land where our families have lived for many years. I ask the Christians of the world, Italians in particular to hold a day of prayer for Iraqi Christians because we need your help and yours will be an example for all Christians everywhere." In a statement yesterday, the Maronites in Lebanon, Middle East, America and Europe, condemned the attacks on Christians on Iraq, saying: "These terrorists want to empty Iraq of Christians and cancel its age-old tradition as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country." The statement also voiced concern for attacks on Christians in other parts of the Middle East. The World Maronite Union said it plans to call a special meeting in Washington and will be inviting representatives of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq, with leaders of other churches as well as civil and political authorities to discuss the urgent need to provide protection for Iraq's Christian minority. Source: Fides

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