Westminster vigil calls for UK action to assist Iraqi Christians

By staff writers
November 9, 2010

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside parliament in Westminster today to call for concerted UK government action to protect Christians in Iraq.

The 350-strong vigil follows the attack on 31 October 2010 on Our Lady of Deliverance Cathedral in Baghdad, seat of the Syriac Bishop in the Iraqi capital.

A total of 50 people were killed and 75 wounded at the Sayidat al-Nejat church, including women, children and two priests.

An attempt to storm the building, where hundreds of people had been held captive by militants, backfired badly.

Similar rallies to the one at Westminster, which was peaceful and good natured, have been held in around 20 cities across the world.

A spokesperson explained: "We are concerned that there has recently been a call for a mass exodus of Christians from Iraq which if it takes place, could mean a huge impact on the European Community and on the United Kingdom in particular.

"We appreciate how compassionate and caring the British public is, however we are asking the government to do more to protect those that wish to stay in their own country but at the same time welcome some of those that wish to leave and accept them into this country.

"So far the British government has been silent and the British media almost indifferent. We urge those with a voice to shout loud enough so the government can take notice.

"Even the French government offered to treat the wounded in France, and in fact 38 of the injured, including the heroic Fr Qutaimi, were taken to France yesterday by special medical plane for treatment. We wish the British government had made a similar gesture," he said.

Last week, British-based Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Athanasios Dawood criticised the Iraqi government for not doing enough to protect the rights of minorities. He said Christians were being forced to quit the country.

"I say clearly and now: the Christian people should leave their beloved land of our ancestors and escape the premeditated ethnic cleansing. This is better than having them killed one by one," said Dawood, according to CNN.

Speaking at a service in London, he also asked the British government, and the authorities in other European countries, to grant asylum to Christians living in Iraq.

But Fr Saad Sirop Hanna of Saint Joseph's Catholic Church in Baghdad said that Christians in Iraq were "afraid, but not desperate", and backed a continuing presence and witness in the troubled land.

Around half the two million Christians who were present in Iraq before the US-led invasion in 2003 have now emigrated.


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