British priest in Iraq says Christian minority worse off than ever

By Ecumenical News International
December 6, 2007

A Baghdad-based Anglican priest, in an interview with a US news network, has declared that Christians are considerably worse off now than they were during the regime of the late Saddam Hussein, Iraq's former dictator, whose deposition he nevertheless welcomed - writes Chris Herlinger from New York.

From the point of view of the minority "there's no comparison between Iraq now and [under Saddam]," the Rev Canon Andrew White said in an interview broadcast on Sunday 2 December 2007, on the CBS Television news programme "60 Minutes".

"Things are the most difficult they have ever been for Christians, probably ever in history," said White, a British cleric.

He told reporter Scott Pelley that about 90 percent of Iraqi Christians have either fled Iraq or have been killed after being targeted for assassination by Islamic extremists. By some estimates there were once more than 1 million Christians in Iraq.

The CBS report states that one-time Christian strongholds in Baghdad, such as the neighbourhood of Dora, are virtually empty of Christians.

White told Pelley that among those killed or kidnapped have been leaders of his own parish, whose bodies have never been found or recovered. "Here in this church, all of my leadership were originally taken and killed," he said. "This is one of the problems. I regularly do funerals here, but it's not easy to get the bodies."

As a result of the killings, White conducts what have been called "underground" services for what remains of his congregation, including the infirm, elderly and others who have been unable to flee Baghdad.

White told CBS the sectarian killings in Iraq are an example of religion "gone wrong."

He said, "When religion goes wrong, it kills others."

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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