Killing goes on as Saddam Hussein is executed and churches pray

By staff writers
December 30, 2006

The auxiliary bishop of the Chaldeans in Baghdad, Shlemon Warduni, has called on fellow-believers to “continue to pray for peace across the world and today especially in Iraq” following the execution of former dictator Saddam Hussein at 6.10am today.

But the bloodshed overrunning the country continued unabated, with over 70 people being killed in incidents across the country. The response to the news of Saddam’s hanging, after a trial widely regarded as flawed, was mixed across the Arab world and mostly muted in Iraq.

In a statement, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki declared: "Justice, in the name of the people, has carried out the death sentence against the criminal Saddam, who faced his fate like all tyrants, frightened and terrified during a hard day which he did not expect."

According to Reuters, The former president, toppled by the US-led invasion and occupation four years ago, was shown going calmly to his death on the scaffold in images of his last moments broadcast on state television.

Criticism of the execution, which opponents of the death penalty fear will lead to further cycles of violence, was registered by the United Nations, the European Union, the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Human Rights Watch and others who had campaigned against his brutal and murderous rule.

The Iraqi new president’s fragile authority among fellow Shi'ites has been enhanced after he forced through Saddam's killing against Sunni and Kurdish hesitations only four days after his appeal failed.

But both Assyrians and Kurds are angry that Saddam’s many crimes against them went untried as a result of an inadequate judicial process.

Beyond the political repercussions of the ex-dictator’s death, Bishop Shlemon Warduni stressed that the priority for Christian churches is “necessary respect for the human person, as created by God.”

The fear that the hanging of the ex-ruler will bring “nothing good for the country”, as one local church leader put it, is widespread among Iraqi Christians in Europe and the United States. They are concerned that even if this does not come about immediately, “sooner or later Saddam’s death will be avenged”.

Speaking for the Holy See, Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio that “every capital execution is a reason for sadness even when it involves a person who has been convicted of serious crimes”.

He added that “the killing of the perpetrator is not the way to rebuild justice and to reconcile society. Rather the opposite, there is the danger that the spirit of revenge will be fuelled and new violence will be sown.”

But President Maliki said: "I urge ... followers of the ousted regime to reconsider their stance as the door is still open to anyone who has no innocent blood on his hands to help in rebuilding ... Iraq."

Many Muslims, especially Sunnis, making the traditional haj pilgrimage to Mecca, were outraged by the symbolism of hanging Saddam Hussein on what to them is the holiest day of the year at the start of Eid al-Adha.

Fr Lombardi said he hoped that “in this dark period of the life of the Iraqi people, all leaders will truly make every effort so that small seeds of hope of reconciliation and peace may be born.”

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