“Protection for Iraq’s Christian and non-Christian citizens will be achieved through a collaborative effort to assist the Iraqi Government, in taking direct responsibility for security,” His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Archbishop of the Diocese of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon has told news.assyrianchurch.com.
His Beatitude said proactive steps were being taken by the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East to increase pressure on the Iraqi Government to take charge and act responsibly for the benefit of the wider Iraqi community.
“Yes, we need to make the Australian community aware of what’s going on in Iraq – but we have to let them hear the right message. There are terrorists in Iraq killing Christians, killing Muslims too, trying to undermine the Iraqi people’s efforts to establish democracy and freedom. We, however, are in the front-line of this massacre.
“Do we need the support of the Australian and Western governments? Yes, the Iraqis need our assistance to defeat terrorism, whilst putting more pressure on the government to enhance security in Iraq not only for the Christians but for all Iraqis. We consider ourselves an important and integral part of the solution, not separated from the whole of Iraqi population,” said His Beatitude.
Although organised demonstrations in Western countries have had a positive effect in raising awareness among the people, these at times have been used negatively by the terrorists and the fanatics who portray the Christians of Iraq and the Middle East as “Agents of the West and infidels who are seeking the downfall of Islam”.
By distorting the intent of these peaceful demonstrations, terrorists and fanatics have used it to justify their evil attacks on the peace loving community of Iraq.
His Beatitude said making a direct demand for security to the Iraqi Embassy in Australia will do more to protect the Christian and non-Christian minorities in Iraq.
“We have to be very careful of how to respond in circumstances like these, as these terrorists do watch and consider our moves carefully. It’s a double-edged sword. There are ways and means; we live in a democratic country and people are free. A careful consideration of the repercussions of our approaches is essential, since we are dealing with people who have no respect for human dignity and have no fear of God in them,” said His Beatitude.
Following the recent terrorist attack on Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Church, Baghdad, where more than 60 faithful Christians were killed, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch, officially condemned the attack through a condolence letter to His Beatitude Mar Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch for the Syrian Catholic Church. Letters of condemnation were sent to Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, seeking the Iraqi Government to act in force to enhance security.
His Beatitude also welcomed an order of visits from foreign and domestic leaders to openly address protection of Iraq’s minorities. Dr George Backus, an Assyrian acting as a political advisor to Iraqi’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, recently attended mass at St Hurmizd’s Cathedral, Sydney, and visited His Beatitude to extend condolences of the Iraqi Government to the Assyrian community.
“They were really upset about what happened. When the Prime Minister heard of the massacre he was moved and enraged by what happened. He immediately gave orders to find whoever was behind this and bring them to justice,” said Dr Backus.
While the Iraqi Government is currently trying its best to control the situation, the chaotic timing of the attack coincided with political tension in Iraq as the country was amidst an eight-month period without a formal government, allowing terrorists to take further advantage of the tense climate.
“We’re concerned about the Iraqi people as a whole because immediately after the attacks on the church, numerous car bombs went off in a Shi’ite Muslim neighbourhood, killing tens of people. What we’re seeing here is that terrorism is trying to sow the seeds of fear into all parts of the Iraqi population whether Christians, Muslims, Sunni, Shi’ite, Kurds or minorities because the evil will only survive when there is chaos, fear and a sense of hopelessness,” said His Beatitude.
However, the visiting Iraqi delegation stressed the importance of unity within the Christian community in the Middle East, as the government needs the people’s help in order to implement security challenges.
“We need to leave behind our differences and be united in Christ, having a united and strong front in face of fear and terror, helping one another, to be able to face these challenges with courage” said His Beatitude.
“Terrorists want to empty Iraq of its people, especially Christians, who were the foundation stone for building a vibrant civilisation in the Middle East, especially by establishing the first seeds of civilisation in bet-Nahrain, Iraq.
“If Christians leave Iraq, there will be a vacuum in the Iraqi society, putting Iraq further into chaos and disadvantage as there will be no hope for democracy in the Middle East.”
The Iraqi Government’s representatives emphasised the role of Christians in Iraq. They identified them as a skilled and educated people who have always been considered first-class citizens among the people of country. They were recognised as an integral part to building a better nation and society, without which Iraq will not prosper.
His Beatitude’s concerns for the protection of the Christian community in Iraq were taken on board by Dr Backus, who promised to deliver them to the Iraqi cabinet and Prime Minster.
Furthermore, there was a visit from the Iraqi Ambassador and Consulate General to offer His Beatitude a copy of the Iraqi Foreign Minister’s letter to all heads of churches inside and outside Iraq, promising to do their utmost best to protect minorities.
His Beatitude also welcomed the head of Imam al-Mahdi Centre, Sydney, Sheikh Haidar, who extended his condolences to the Assyrian community and offered to assist in any way.
“The Islamic community representatives told me they are totally against these acts of terror which blemishes the picture of Islam inside and outside Iraq.
They praised the Christians of Iraq as being always a peace-loving community and contributed throughout the ages for the progress of Iraq.”
The offer to assist was a very kind and appreciated gesture that showed their deep sadness and concern to their fellow brothers and sisters of the Christian community.
Looking to the near future, His Beatitude said Iraq’s stability depends on the successful implementation of programs to reduce the unemployment rate, engage people in building the society and having a strong government and military to build a better future for the younger generations.
“I do believe there is hope for the people of Iraq because evil will ultimately be defeated and we must put our trust in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who gave us His eternal promise. Evil will always be there, but its defeat is certain. We should not give up to fear or to the agenda these people are trying to achieve.
“St. Paul writes that ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind’ 2 Timothy 1:7. “We must continue to have hope in God and be united, strengthened by His words and His promises,” said His Beatitude.[nggallery id=100]