British Muslims and Christians jointly condemn Iraq church attack

November 16, 2010

London, November 16 (ENInews)--Christian and Muslim leaders in
Britain have joined in support of Christian communities in Iraq
following the latest attack by extremists in the name of Islam, which
resulted in the death of almost 60 worshippers at Our Lady of Salvation
cathedral in Bagdad.

A statement issued on 15 November by Britain's Christian Muslim Forum,
following a meeting two days earlier at the Al-Khoei Foundation Mosque
in London attended by representatives of Christian, Islamic and Jewish
bodies, "condemned in the strongest terms, all criminal acts committed
by terrorists who seek to hijack the high values of Islam".

The statement noted, "We stand shoulder to shoulder with Iraqi
Christians to confront the terror and fear that this important part of
Iraqi society now faces, emphasising that these terrorist attacks will
not succeed in dividing us and destroying the great values that we
share, and our long history of peaceful coexistence."

In Antelias, Lebanon, on 16 November Aram I, who heads the Catholicosate
of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, said he had told North
American journalists how the ancient local churches of the Middle East,
which had been rooted in the region for more than 17 centuries, "have
contributed to its economic, intellectual, and cultural development".

The former moderator of the World Council of Churches, Aram said,
"Christians in the Middle East have always lived with challenges. The
history of Christians in the Middle East has been a history of 'living
martyrdom'. They have witnessed their faith through their participation
in their societies living the message and values born in Bethlehem. What
is happening today is a continuation of the same journey, continuation
of Christian witness in the Middle East."

In the United States, Catholic bishops said last week that their country
had failed to help Iraq develop the means and political will to protect
its citizens, particularly Christians.

"Having invaded Iraq, our nation has a moral obligation not to abandon
those Iraqis who cannot defend themselves," Cardinal Francis George of
Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote in a
letter to President Barack Obama, released on 11 November, Religion
News Service reported.

Al-Qaida gunmen killed 58 worshippers and wounded 75 more in an attack
on 31 October during a service at the Syrian Catholic cathedral in the
Iraqi capital.

Britain's Christian Muslim Forum had earlier called for governments of
Muslim countries to make every effort to protect their Christian
communities, and for the British Government to recognise the legitimate
case for asylum of Christians fleeing persecution and death threats in
the Middle East and elsewhere.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in a message to Christians in
Iraq read at a 12 November commemorative service in London after the
cathedral attack, declared, "We hope and pray with all our hearts that
there may be an end to this kind of sacrilegious butchery, and to all
intimidation and violence against Christians and other minorities in
Iraq."

The leader of Britain's Roman Catholics, Archbishop of Westminster
Vincent Nichols, also pledged support for Iraqi Christians, and
expressed horror at the atrocity.

Last week, the London-based exiled archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox
Church in Iraq, Athanasios Dawood, called on Britain to grant Christian
Iraqis asylum. He told the national broadcaster, the BBC, that since the
U.S.-led invasion there had been no protection for Christians, and that
promises of democracy and human rights had not been fulfilled by the
invaders.

Still, the Rev. Andrew White, vicar of St George's, the only Anglican
church in Iraq, told the BBC that his parishoners were still coming to
church and intended to stay in the country, even though they were
"petrified".