Syrian Catholic Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad says that “the invasion of Iraq by America and its allies brought to Iraq in general, and especially to its Christians, destruction and ruin on all levels.” Certainly that is true of Iraq’s Christians. But then the Archbishop goes on to say, “Churches were blown up, bishops and priests and lay persons were massacred, many were the victims of aggression.”
Note the passive voice. Since that is the very next sentence after the one beginning with “the invasion of Iraq by America and its allies,” the uninformed reader could get the impression that America and its allies blew up churches and massacred bishops and priests and laypeople. But of course Islamic jihadists did that — yet instead of calling upon the world to note that fact and protect Iraq’s Christians, this piece goes out of its way to deny the obvious: that the mass-murderers of Iraqi Christians were acting in the name of Islam.
Yet can the problem really be properly addressed if it is not properly diagnosed?
“Silence around Christian massacre troubling,” by Fred Henry, Roman Catholic Bishop of Calgary, for The Calgary Herald, November 15:
On Oct. 15, Syrian Catholic Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad delivered one of the most memorable interventions during the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East — words made even more poignant by the Oct. 31 attack on worshippers at his cathedral. What follows is an excerpt from his text:
” . . . Iraq does not cease living a situation of instability of trials and wars. The last being the American occupation. Christians have always had their part in the sacrifices and tribulations: with the martyrs in the wars and all sorts of different hardships.
“Since the year 2003, Christians are the victims of a killing situation, which has provoked a great emigration from Iraq . . . without a doubt there are only about 400,000 Christians left of the 800,000 that lived there. The invasion of Iraq by America and its allies brought to Iraq in general, and especially to its Christians, destruction and ruin on all levels.
“Churches were blown up, bishops and priests and lay persons were massacred, many were the victims of aggression. Doctors and businessmen were kidnapped, others were threatened, storage places and homes were pillaged . . . here still is the fear of the unknown, insecurity and instability, as well as the continuation of emigration . . . . The tears are continuous between the different religious and political composing elements, as well as external influence by external powers, especially neighbouring countries.
“Seven years have passed and Christianity is still bleeding. Where is the world’s conscience?”
His intervention was moving, prophetic and provocative.
There is a basic deep-seated misunderstanding that needs to be exposed; we are not talking about a “religious” problem. What is at stake is the possibility of people exercising their human rights, of which religious ones are an important and vital component.
Consider the remarks by Corbishop Philip Najem, procurator for the Chaldean Catholic Church following the Baghdad attack.
“This attack has been condemned by the whole Iraqi community! It is not a matter of faith! Certainly, the intention is to create chaos. There are dark forces that have entered the country only to create this division and to prevent the process of pacification of Iraq . . . I heard yesterday that there were many Muslims who had gone to donate blood for the victims who were injured in the church. The extremists have been condemned by Muslims themselves: by that Islam that knows God, that knows faith, that knows love, that knows charity! . . . . This is a barbaric attack, different from other attacks . . . no one can say that this has been done in the name of a religion, a faith or a god. This is an attack against humanity, against the Church, against religion, against faith, against the dignity of the human being.”…
Actually, those who perpetrated the barbaric attack can and do say that it was done in the name of their religion, faith, and god.