Iraqi Church Leaders Appeal for Peace after Deadly Bomb Blasts

Though churches were not the target of the latest wave of explosions in Iraq, church leaders are appealing to the international community to do what they can to encourage and support the violence-plagued country and its people.

In the deadliest day of coordinated bombings since Feb. 1, 2008, simultaneous truck bombs struck Iraq's Foreign and Finance ministries in Baghdad Wednesday, killing at least 95 people and wounding more than 400.

One Baghdad church, Our Lady of Fatima, was reportedly badly damaged in the blasts, but Latin-rite Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad told the Catholic News Service that he did not believe the church was specifically targeted and reported no casualties.

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Still, he stressed how important it is in the current instability for believers overseas to give encouragement to Christians in Iraq, who are still reeling from bomb attacks on seven Baghdad churches last month that killed four people.

"We are shocked by this violence. The fear of violence is everywhere … Violence is hitting everyone," he said.

Following Wednesday's bombings, Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni similarly urged people in other countries "to do what is best for Iraq, for the good of Iraq and its people, not their own interests."

He also appealed for reconciliation, stating that "peace depends on love, to love one another and to do the best for each other, not our selfishness."

 "When there's no peace, we can't study, we can't pray, we can't work, we can't even walk," he said.

Following Wednesday's wave of deadly bombings, the Iraqi government publicly acknowledged for the first time its security failings, which have been exposed in the increase of attacks since the June 30 withdrawal of U.S. forces from cities.

Iraqi officials have blamed Sunni insurgents for the latest bombings and apologized for failing to prevent the attacks in areas that should have been among the most heavily guarded.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the bombers want to undermine an effort to take advantage of security gains to open streets and bridges and to lift concrete barriers.

He also said the government must "re-evaluate our plans and security mechanisms to confront the terrorist challenges and to increase cooperation between security forces and the Iraqi people."

It has been less than two months since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq's cities under a security pact that outlines the American withdrawal by the end of 2011. U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered all American combat troops out of Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, leaving a contingency of up to 50,000 U.S. troops in training and advising roles.

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