The Patriarch of the Syro-Catholic Church sent an urgent letter to the Iraqi Prime Minister on Wednesday pleading for government intervention to establish peace and security for Iraqi Christians, especially those in Mosul. The message is accompanied by news of peaceful protests from the area's Christians in the coming weeks.
Translated portions of the text written by Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, based in Beirut, Lebanon, to Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri Al-Maliki were sent to CNA by a priest from Mosul.
"We are writing you now with injured hearts because of the painful news we are receiving, especially from Mosul where the tendency of Christians being the target of 'anonymous' criminals has increased considerably," writes the Patriarch in the message.
Of Christians in Mosul, he relates, "they are killed, sacrificed and attacked in the streets, in schools and also in their own homes, this only because of their religious affiliation which is different from the affiliation of the majority who live in that city."
Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan also expresses his disbelief at the "excuses from those in charge of the government." These excuses, he charges, are "nothing more than complicity for the plan to empty Mosul of Christians who have lived there for so many centuries."
The rocks used to build the city still bear witness to "the sweat of their fathers," he added.
The Patriarch concluded his urgent message with an appeal to the government of Prime Minister al-Maliki "to strike with an iron arm and punish the criminals together with their accomplices in Mosul." If they are unable to "achieve peace and introduce security for the affected innocents," the Patriarch suggested that the government should arm Christians "so that they can, in some way, protect themselves from being sacrificed like sheep."
After the funerals on Wednesday of the most recent victims of violence, Syro-Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Georges Casmoussa spoke to Vatican Radio. He said that Orthodox and Catholic bishops of the city have decided to stage protests on successive Sundays with moments of prayer in Christian cities and the suspension of all Masses.
Through these actions, he said, "we will give a message to the government."
Archbishop Casmoussa also responded to a question on the relationship between the killings and the March 7th elections in Iraq. "In all elections there are problems," he answered, "but not to the point of killing people and, in particular, Christians.
"Christians are killed not for a political point of view, but because they are Christians."
He also said that they have asked the governor to investigate, which he promised to do as well as sending military forces to search for the assassins, but no action had been taken yet.