Anti-war stance of church kept Iraqi Christians safe
One of Iraq's most senior archbishops has said that the perceived anti-war stance of the Church of England had prevented a Muslim backlash against Iraqi Christians.
But sharply criticising the US for its administration of Baghdad, Severius Hawa, Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Baghdad and Basra, told BBC News Online the electricity shortage was crippling the city and putting lives at risk.
People were sweltering in temperatures of 50C, with no telephones, no jobs, food shortages and increased illness and disorder, he said.
Yhe archbishop, who opposed the war, said even supporters of the invasion were now losing patience.
"Since the Americans have been in Iraq, nothing good has happened for usî he said.
The archbishop said mounting disorder was also preventing some people from leaving their homes at night.
He said: "My message to Tony Blair and George Bush is to think about us, about our people, to make peace and security grow in Iraq.î
"And to deal with people in a Christian spirit as Christ taught us, not to punish all the people just because one person may be crazy against the Americans. Not all Iraqis are against the US."
Saddam Hussein fostered good relations with the Christian Church, giving it money to restore monasteries, and allowing worship without persecution.
Baath party laws however prevented the use of Biblical names or Christian schools, and Muslims who converted to Christianity were killed.
But Christianity was allowed to co-exist with Islam and the Catholic communities, with no animosity between the religions.
Even as the unpopularity of the West increased, there were no significant repercussions for Iraq's Christians because of the anti-war stance of Christians in the UK said the archbishop.
"Muslims did not hurt or kill Christians because they understood the Church of England was against war, and we saw the protests by people in England, France and the US," the archbishop said.
One Muslim leader who returned to Iraq from exile was also thankful to the Anglican Church for helping his passage back, the archbishop said.
The archbishop was speaking at the end of a three-week trip to the UK, which included preparing for the proposed visit to Iraq in October of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.