Persecution strengthens faith of Christians in Iraq, archbishop reveals
Three kidnapped Christians tell captors, "We are willing to die for our faith"
Archbishop Luis Sako of Kirkuk
Archbishop Luis Sako of Kirkuk

.- Archbishop Luis Sako of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, revealed that the persecution suffered by Iraqi Christians at the hands of Muslim fundamentalists is strengthening rather than weakening their faith.

In an interview with the SIR agency, Archbishop Sako said that the three Christian students who were recently kidnapped in Kirkuk by Muslim fundamentalists confronted their captors saying, “We are willing to die for our faith.”  The archbishop thanked God that the incident did not end in tragedy and that the students were released unharmed.

The kidnapping took place last week in Baghdad, when fundamentalists kidnapped some 40 people, including the three students.

The students were subjected to violent interrogation and were threatened with torture and execution if they did not renounce their faith.  Archbishop Sako said the three young people reacted with heroism that apparently moved their captors, who decided to let them go.  “What happed with the three young people means that despite so many difficulties, our faithful have not lost faith and hope. On the contrary, they have been strengthened,” he said.

The archbishop noted that an inter-religious committee for dialogue has been created in the city in order to help Muslims better understand Christians and their role in building the Iraq of the future.  The initiative was presented to Iraqi President Jalal Al Talibani during his recent visit to Kirkuk.  The president offered his support and encouragement for the committee.

Archbishop Sako also has begun a campaign to solicit the help of Christians in Kirkuk who are more economically secure to help prevent believers who are poor and under pressure from having to leave the region, which would diminish even further the presence of Christians.  The monies collected will be distributed during Holy Week to the poor, he said.

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