WCC, Iraqi Clerics Call for Gov't Response to Anti-Christian Violence

The head of the World Council of Churches said Wednesday that the ecumenical church body is "very concerned" about the new escalation of violence against Christians in the city of Mosul and backed Iraqi church leaders in calling for intervention from the government.

"We urge all parties and members of the Iraqi administration to take up their responsibility in bringing security and stability to the country and insuring the safety of Iraqi citizens," said WCC General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit after expressing solidarity with the people of Iraq and conveying WCC's condolences to the families of the victims of the most recent violence.

Last Sunday, two bombs exploded near buses carrying Christian students from Hamdaniyah to Mosul University, killing a shop owner in the area and injuring dozens of students and other civilians.

According to Christian Church Leaders of Iraq (CCCLI), some 188 men and women were injured – some seriously – by the blasts.

The attack was only one of many throughout Iraq that have come after contentious national elections and at a time when the country is struggling to form a new government.

Though Christians have been the target of attacks for years, violence against the shrinking community escalated earlier this year ahead of the March 7 elections.

Mosul, which is home to a large Christian community, has been particularly vulnerable as some extremist Sunnis consider Iraqi Christians to be supporters of the Shiite-led government they oppose and therefore target them intentionally. At least 10 Iraqi Christians were killed by unknown gunmen in Mosul in February.

Following the May 2 bombings, the CCCLI gathered together for an "emergency session" in Qaraqosh and released a statement four days later saying the series of attacks targeting Christians "require a serious review and the concerted efforts of all government officials and political parties in order to give priority to the public interest and the security of citizens."

"Thus we urgently reiterate our call to expedite the formation of a government of national unity that will work to ensure law, security and safety," the ecumenical council added. "[A]ny delay will have a negative impact reflecting negatively on the lives of citizens and the task of nation-building."

Among those who signed the statement were Archbishop Louis Sako, Archbishop of Kirkuk for the Chaldean Church; Bishop Athanasius Matta Mtoka, Archbishop of Baghdad for the Syrian Catholic Church; and Archbishop Avak Assadourian, head of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Iraq and secretary general of the council.

Formed just this past February, the CCCLI includes all patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and heads of churches in Iraq from the 14 Christian communities registered in Iraq since 1982. Their churches belong to the Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox as well as Protestant traditions.

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