Iraqi churches appeal for freedom of religion
Churches in Iraq are seeking a national constitution that will guarantee minority Christians full rights.
The appeal from Iraqi Christians who make up an estimated 3% of the population, was made public by the Vatican yesterday.
The call from Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syrians, Armenians, Greeks and Latins was aimed both at the Iraqi authorities and the international community, reflecting "pressure from our faithful," the bishops and patriarchs said.
The appeal calls for guarantees of freedom of religion from the new regime. It asks that people be judged by their abilities without discrimination, so that they can participate in government, worship according to ancient traditions and educate their children ìaccording to Christian principles."
It also calls for the right to assemble, and to build houses of worship and cultural and social centres.
The appeal follows a call last week by the US Institute on Religion and Public Policy which urged the American president to do all he could to guarantee freedom of religion in Iraq.
In a letter to George Bush , President Joseph K. Grieboski and Executive Vice President Ambassador Aurel-Dragos Munteanu urged that the president and those involved in the process of seyting up the new regime "to work with vigor to guarantee freedom of religion and belief in the lives of the Iraqi people.î
The letter comes as reports emerge of a growing threat of Mulism fundamentalism in Iraq, and potential danger for Iraq's Christians. Some Iraqi Christians have worried that despite U.S. promises of democracy, Iraq's long downtrodden majority of Shiite Muslims might also establish rule based on religious intolerance.
On Easter Sunday, Baghdad's recently retired bishop, the Rev. Emmanuel Delly, also sought support from President Bush for a constitution that would treat Christians in the same way as Muslims.
Under Saddam Hussein's Baath party, there was relative freedom for Christians in Iraq compared with many other countries in the Middle East.