Iraqi Christians Hit Hard, U.S. Bishops Say
Prelates Urge End to Minority Discrimination
WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 28, 2007 (www.Zenit.org) -- U.S. bishops are calling for an immediate halt to what they called deliberate violence against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.
In a statement released Monday, Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Policy, said: "The deadly cycle of violence must stop if peace with justice for all Iraqis is to be achieved."
The bishops' statement cited a recent attack on the shrine in Samarra and the slayings earlier this month of a Catholic priest and three subdeacons after Sunday Mass.
"These incidences of violence make the possibilities of a secure, stable and democratic Iraq ever more difficult to achieve," the statement said.
It continued: "In a special way, we are deeply concerned for Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq who are especially vulnerable. We call for an immediate halt to the deliberate violence against our Christian sisters and brothers and other religious minorities in Iraq.
"The situation of Christians is particularly dire. The estimated prewar Christian population of 1.2 million has dropped dramatically to an estimated several hundred thousand."
The bishops' statement listed crimes against Christians in Iraq, such as demanding removal of crosses from churches, requiring non-Muslims to pay special religious taxes, mandating that Christian women wear veils, and calling for Christians to abandon their faith and become Muslims.
"Many Christians no longer feel safe gathering in churches and Christian institutions, resulting in the closing of parishes, seminaries and convents," the statement said.
It continued: "These targeted actions against Christians and other religious minorities are not simply signs of general societal violence, but are also attacks on Christianity and religious freedom by the most extreme elements within Iraqi society.
"As an expression of solidarity with our brother bishops in Iraq, we urge U.S. and Iraqi authorities and religious leaders within Iraq to do everything possible to help end the violence and the >Iraqi Christians facing "extinction"