In an interview given to the Catholic missionary Agency “Asia News,” Iraqi Bishop Rabban al Qas expressed his hope for significant improvement in political and religious freedom after the capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The 54 year-old bishop of Kurdish origin, who is at the hospital waiting to be operated, saw the news of Saddam’s capture while watching Arab and Italian TV news.
“The serpent’s head has been finally crushed,” he told Asia News. “Now we can peacefully rebuild our country” with the help of a military presence he defines as “liberating” and not “occupational”.
“I can say that his arrest is a moment of joy for all Iraqis. As well as for us bishops. Ours fears are finally over. All the weight we bore on our shoulders for all those who died and for (the fear of) murderers.”
“In the months following Iraq’s liberation, there was the suspicion that there were still spies around, that Saddam would reappear. Now there is no longer any fear. Now the serpent’s head has been finally crushed and his regime is finally over,” he said.
According to the Catholic bishop, “Saddam has met his end, and for us in Iraq, (this means) the reconstruction period can now truly begin. If there is peace in Iraq’s future, freedom for all religions, then our country will be able to grow. She will be rich and her numerous cultures will live together in harmony. This explains why upon hearing the news of Saddam’s arrest, all of Baghdad and the entire country burst into joy and is now celebrating in the streets.”
Bishop Rabban also revealed to the Rome-based agency that he spoke with seminarians and bishops in Baghdad after Saddam’s capture. “Yesterday (Sunday,) they were all at the airport awaiting the new Patriarch’s arrival. And they were celebrating with other Iraqis. I would like to clarify one aspect of your question: Saddam’s capture and arrest does not mean one thing for the Church and another for Iraq citizens. Christians are not any different from the rest of the nation. Christ sent us to live within society. Under Saddam Hussein, the Church and Iraqi populace have suffered together. Under his dictatorial regime, we have all been persecuted: Christians, Shiites, Arabs, Kurds, and Syrian-Chaldeans alike. We are the Iraqi nation and it we Iraqis who have been oppressed.”
Finally, speaking about the US military presence in Iraq, the bishop said: “For us (their military presence) is liberating, not occupational. If they weren’t here, Iraqis would still be under (Saddam’s) yoke. But now thank God the nightmare is over.”