A leader in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has added his voice to those of other Christian leaders to call for an end to recent bursts of violence in northern Iraq.
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the PC(USA)’s General Assembly, stated that the church urges U.S. and international leaders to speak out against all such religious violence.
According to the Assyrian International News Agency, Chaldean Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona said that hundreds of Christian families left Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 24. They fled after a series of attacks that left five Christians and a family of five dead.
Upcoming national elections March 7 are thought to be a catalyst for the violence — attackers could be hoping to benefit from the political instability caused by the attacks, the news agency reported.
The elections are sparking a struggle between groups of Arabs and Kurds, said Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk.
“They are fighting to have authority, power and also the economy, and there’s a big tension,” he said, adding that in Mosul, the groups are “pushing the Christians to get out of the city — that is their main purpose.”
Sako said the lack of security results from a political vacuum in Mosul. He has launched a demonstration and a fast to alert the international community to the violence.
Pope Benedict XVI has also expressed concern about the attacks and has stated his solidarity and prayers about the events.
Sako said that more Iraqi Christians are likely to flee the country in coming years because of threats of violence and the fear of sharia law. Iraqi Christians feel neglected by Western Christians, he said.
“(They) have the impression of being forgotten by the West that is secular,” he said. “In the past, some might have wanted to protect Christians but now we have the impression of being isolated and forgotten by all.”
The full statement from Gradye Parsons:
On behalf of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I write to add our voice to the pleas for an end to the violence in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.
The violence has resulted in the recent brutal killing of many Christians and the flight, according to the Asia News, of hundreds of Christians who left the city on February 24, 2010, in search of shelter from the prospect of death at the hands of Muslim extremists.
Chaldean Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona expressed the fear the Mosul could be “emptied completely of Christians.”
We are well aware of the struggle in the region between the Kurdish population and the Iraqi Arabs who control the city. It appears to some analysts that this violence is intended to create turmoil prior to the pending election on March 7, 2010. The violence has included attacks on Muslim houses of worship, as well as Christian houses of worship.
We join with Pope Benedict XVI and church leaders worldwide in expressing our solidarity with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in his efforts to bring an end to the violence in Mosul and the region. We urge leaders of the United States and the community of nations to speak out against all such violence directed toward people of faith, and especially against Christians who constitute such a fragile but crucial minority in the region.