Muslim and Christian leaders in the city of Irbil issued a joined statement Nov. 12 condemning the anti-Christian violence. Mullahs, or spiritual leaders, representing both main Muslim factions, the Sunni and the Shiite, have promised to use their pulpits to invite people "to be instruments of peace and fraternity rather than violence."
Islamic extremists such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq, which claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Our Lady of Salvation, are directly responsible for attacks. But Archbishop Casmoussa said these groups are able to operate with impunity because Iraq’s government has been in discord.
Recent efforts to form a unity government among rival factions in the country remain fragile. Yet many hope that the efforts will lead to better security that will stem the violence and the resulting emigration that afflict the country's Christians.
In his opening speech to Iraq’s House of Representatives Nov. 11, newly elected Speaker Qusay al-Suhail, declared the security of the Christian community a top priority. He openly deplored the killings at the cathedral and Christian homes in Baghdad.
Archbishop Casmoussa welcomes the new expressions of concern.
“In terms of declarations, we are really saturated,” he said. “What we are asking for are concrete actions. We must find a solution, solutions, effective ways to safeguard the security of Christians.”
The archbishop suggested that Christians might be granted their own “separate autonomous geographic region, with international budgetary and infrastructural guarantees, especially for security.”
The Iraqi government since 2005 has recognized an autonomous region for the Kurdish people. It is located in northern Iraq, along the borders with Turkey, Iran, and Syria.
The archbishop wants to stem the tide of Christians exiting Iraq. But he acknowledged that the violence and uncertainty are the main causes of emigration.
"Things must not be left to fester in such a way that Christians leave their country," he said.
One Syrian Orthodox leader, Archbishop Athanasios Dawood, who is based in London, received attention earlier in November for encouraging emigration of Christians from Iraq. Archbishop Dawood told CNN that he advised Christians to “escape the premeditated ethnic cleansing."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
"This," he said, "is better than having them killed one by one."
Archbishop Casmoussa said Archbishop Dawood does not speak for Christians in Iraq. “He does not live in Iraq … ”
Archbishop Casmoussa asked for assistance from the international community to ensure the safety of Iraqis and stop the mass emigration. He specifically uged international companies doing business in Iraq to push for greater human rights protections and to use their economic clout to put pressure on the Iraqi and U.S. governments.
He is also calling on the Iraqi government to investigate and bring the terrorists to justice.
If they do not, he said, the United Nations must step in.
Until the perpetrators of this religious violence are brought to justice, Archbishop Casmoussa said, "Christians will not feel safe. The hemorrhage of emigration and violence will continue to undermine the Christian presence in Iraq and it will be disaster for Christians."