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BosNewsLife – Iraq ‘s Christian minority on Saturday, October 15, was anxiously awaiting the outcome of a national referendum on Iraq ‘s new constitution which will make Islam “the official religion of the state” and “a main source for legislation.” It also stipulates that “no law can be passed that contradicts the fixed principles of Islam’s rulings,” although that is followed by “no law can be passed that contradicts basic rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution,” BosNewsLife monitored.

Although in Baghdad celebratory gunfire was heard as poll workers began counting ballots across Iraq’s 18 provinces late Saturday, October 15, religious rights activists contemplated the impact of a possible “yes” vote for the constitution.

“It is so crucial that the Christian community have freedom to worship and a voice under the new Constitution,” said Carl A. Moeller, the USA President of Christian rights group Open Doors. “If Christians are marginalized even more, there could be another mass exodus from the country,” at a time of nearly daily deadly attacks against Iraqi civilians, including Christians.

Tens of thousands of Christians already fled the country. In published remarks, Moeller also voiced concern over Article Two of the Constitution which states that Iraq ‘s leadership guarantees “full religious rights” of all individuals in the freedom of their belief and religious practice.

Moeller reportedly said he was worried as “freedom of belief and religious practice is a private affair.” But “Christianity, as we know it, is not a private affair. It is a belief system that is meant to be lived out in the public sphere,” he added.

“Too many totalitarian governments permit the freedom of belief, but not freedom of Christian cultural practice. This is one thing that we’re worry about.”

In addition women’s groups fear the Shi’ite majority, many of whose leaders were exiled in neighboring Iran during Saddam Hussein’s rule, might try to push a religious agenda and curb freedoms.

Yet the Chaldean bishop Rabban al-Qas in the town of Amadiyah in the Kurdish controlled area of Iraq , suggested he voted ‘yes’ for the controversial constitution. “I personally have urged Christians to go and vote [yes]. This Constitution is certainly not perfect, especially for Christians and Kurds, however it is the best thing we have so far,” he told the Catholic oriented news website AsiaNews.

“I hope Kurdistan will be able to contribute to putting there what is now missing, for example, greater guarantees for Christians,” he was quoted as saying, a reference to Kurdish authorities and parties in the area bordering Turkey.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi security forces and police, as well as US-led coalition troops, provided protection for the country’s over 15 million eligible voters during the ballot, which was monitored by international and local monitors.

Travel by car was mostly banned, to avoid car bombings that have rocked Iraq throughout the last two years. There was sporadic violence however, but no reports of major insurgent attacks. The only confirmed deaths were of three Iraqi policemen killed by a roadside bomb, the Voice Of America (VOA) network and other reports said.

Many Iraqi families reportedly stocked up on provisions to last for four days of public holidays called by the government with the aim of keeping people indoors.

A simple majority of voters is needed to pass the constitution, but it could fail if two-thirds of voters in at least three provinces reject it. Final results were expected in about three days, but preliminary results were promised sooner…[Go To Full Story]