Iraqi archbishop opposes US rescue bid for Christians

.- An Iraqi bishop has criticized the United States bishops’ proposal to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which calls on her to grant asylum to Iraq’s persecuted Christians and to create a safe haven for them in the country’s Nineveh plains. Christians are currently fleeing Iraq in droves amid reports of ethnic cleansing.

The proposed plan is “impossible … and could create much more tension than relief for Christians,” said Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, located in northern Iraq.  

He suggested that the initiative could be divisive for the Christian faithful at a time of increasing anti-U.S. sentiment in Iraq.

“We have not at all assimilated with the coalition forces. We have nothing to do with them, nor indeed do we have anything to do with the West,” said Archbishop Sako. “We are Christians; we are citizens like everyone else,” he added, stressing the age-old co-existence and cooperation between Christian communities and the prevailing Islamic culture.

Archbishop Sako reported that the Christian exodus from Basra was so far advanced that, with barely 200 families left in the region, the local bishop had left his diocese to take up a new post administering to exiled communities in Sydney, Australia.

According to the archbishop, the diocese in Basra is likely to remain vacant and there is only one priest left working there now.

“It is almost the case now that there is no future for the Church in so many parts of the country, including Baghdad, Mosul and Basra,” he said.

He described the situation in his archdiocese as “calm and quiet.”

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