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Iraqi ambassador criticized for his views on anti-Christian violence

ICC Note:

They are targets for a “single motive … because they are ‘Christians’,” Father Firas Benoka, who ministers in Mosul told Cathlic News Agency.

By Alan Holdren
2/23/2011 Iraq (Catholic News Agency) – The violence against Christians in Iraq is real and is driven by Muslim extremists and government indifference.

According to a local Iraqi Catholic leader, the anti-Christian persecution is not a concoction of Western journalists, despite claims made recently by Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican.

Father Firas Benoka, who ministers to Syro-Catholics in Mosul, north of the capital of Baghdad told CNA that the ambassador’s remarks were a gross simplification of the sufferings of the country’s tiny Christian minority.

Iraq’s Vatican ambassador, Habeeb M. H. Ali Al-Sadr, recently blamed the media and international organizations for distorting the situation in Iraq.

He told a conference in Velletri, Italy, Jan. 29 that these groups were “playing the game of the terrorists, being concerned about the Christians, their future and the society’s lack of development,” the ambassador said.

But this analysis does not ring true on the ground in Iraq, Fr. Benoka said.

Extremists have been making violent attacks on Christians and their churches for years, he said.

They are targets, he said, for a “single motive … because they are ‘Christians’.”

“This was the only, most decisive accusation and the cause of the evil they suffered,” he added.

Though the government has decried the attacks and announced its “closeness” to the Christian victims, “the attacks have become ever more ferocious,” he said.

Estimates vary on just how many Christians have emigrated. A Feb. 21 Human Rights Watch report estimated there to be 675,000 Christians in Iraq, down from over 1 million in 2003. A U.S. State Department puts the current number between 400,000 and 600,000.

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