[Follow Ups] [Post Followup] [Our Discussion Forum]

Posted by Jeff from ( on Thursday, December 19, 2002 at 5:50PM :


Courtesy of The Times of London (14 December); by Janine di Giovanni

(ZNDA: London) One of the world's oldest Christian communities is living in fear of another Gulf War. The United Nations sanctions against Iraq evidently do not prohibit consignments of human bones.

Whether some official in New York was asked to determine whether bones were "dual use" is not clear, but those of the French saint Therese of Lisieux have been allowed into Baghdad on a special aircraft from France via Lebanon. From there they were driven on a four-hour journey in an old yellow Mercedes hearse to the ancient city of Mosul in Iraq's northern no-fly zone.

St Therese, who died in 1897 and was known as The Little Flower of Jesus, offers hope to the helpless and desperate. Her bones are contained in a wood and gilt casket, protected by a glass dome, that is now on display in a dimly lit church built on the site of St Thomas the Apostle's former home.

There Mosul's Catholics kneel before them and pray, fervently, for peace.

Well they might.

Mosul is badly in need of celestial help. "If St Therese comes here, maybe she will stop the war," Majde Jemil, a pilgrim who had come to visit the bones, said.

Even as St Thomas's down-at-heel congregation is at prayer, an Iraqi jet suddenly screeches overhead, violating the no-fly zone. The electricity goes down and the priest, Father Pius, has to halt his sermon.

The city has seen more than its share of bloodshed. During the 1991 Gulf War it was frequently attacked by allied warplanes.

Since then bombing sorties have taken out schools and killed 23 people playing football one bright summer day. British jets managed to damage St Matthew the Apostle's tomb, and last summer the city airport's radar was destroyed in a raid.

The 1.5 million inhabitants now live in fear of another Gulf War. They fear not only American and British forces, but the arrival of Turks and Kurds, who covet the local oilfields.

Mosul's 20,000 Christians live in small communities near the churches that are scattered through the old town. They are a mixture of Chaldean, Nestorian and Latin Catholics, and most speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus and the apostles, as well as Arabic.

With ancient roots in Mesopotamia, they have existed alongside Muslims for more than 2,000 years, and say that for the most part they are not persecuted by the Muslim majority or by the Government.

"There are always extreme people," Father Pius conceded, but added: "We have been around for 2,002 years. We're not going anywhere."

For these Christians the bones are a much-needed tonic. Abida Meh, a mother-of-seven who has lost a breast to cancer because there was no pre oncology treatment as an alternative, said: "To have St Therese's remains here is a sign of hope for Iraqis in a dark time. It's about faith."

Father Pius says that the people of Mosul have seen too much death and destruction. "People don't want more war. It's unjust. It's abnormal."

Manhal Jabr, director of the Mosul museum, said: "There are 1,500 archaeological sites in and near Mosul and we are afraid that if there is terrible bombing they will not survive.

"They began at prehistory. It is urgent that we preserve them."

Mosul is, however, doing its best to make practical preparations. The city's treasures have been packed away in secret underground vaults.

In the small hamlets near the Kurdish border that are particularly vulnerable, village sheikhs have taken the responsibility of arming and teaching heads of families how to use Kalashnikovs.

In one community, 30 miles north of Mosul, Haji Hassan, a tribal elder, has trained more than 360 people and says that Iraqi Army officers have visited to offer advice for hand-to-hand combat and how to secure the village. He said that his men would defend the village "with our bare hands, down to our last man".

For many others, however, the only available consolation is prayer. To console the anxious Father Pius initially used soothing words that war was far off. But now worry and concern line the faces of his congregation, who in their shabby clothes and worn shoes resemble ancient Christians secretly praying in catacombs in Rome.

"I used to tell them the war will not be," Father Pius said in a resigned voice. "But now I am truthful. I tell them that I think it will be."

St Therese was canonised in 1925, only 28 years after her death, for her devotion in everyday life and making the ordinary extraordinary. After Mosul her bones will move on to Kirkuk, also in Iraq, then to Syria and Lebanon.


Courtesy of Agence France-Presse (18 December)

(ZNDA: Baghdad) A Roman Catholic delegation celebrated a mass in a Baghdad church this week, praying for peace and reading a message for their fellow Americans not to allow a war to be waged on Iraq.

Some two hundred Iraqis, most of them elderly, attended the service in St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church, and many women cried when the choir sang a hymn asking God to spare Iraq more hardship.

"O God of Goodness, O merciful, accept our prayer and make, O Lord, peace happen in our homeland," went the hymn.

The message, read by Sister Simone Campbell, of Sacramento, California and Father John Grathwohl, of Kalamazoo, Michigan said: "We implore you, our fellow citizens of the United States, to look in the eyes of the people in Iraq.

"See the Jesuit-trained doctor who can barely contain his despair, the Muslim mother who grieves for her dying son, the Catholic sister who cares for pregnant mothers and the orphaned children who sleep fitfully at night waiting for the sound of bombs.

"These are the people our government is preparing to sacrifice as collateral damage in an unconscionable war," they said.

The 11-member delegation arrived a week ago to learn about the impact of the UN embargo imposed on Iraq since 1990. They are to leave Friday.

The Chaldean bishop, Emmanuel Dalleh, urged the delegation "to tell the officials in your country and the owners of the media that Iraq is the cradle of civilisation, the land of prophets, a peaceful country."

Christians make over five percent of the 22 million population of Iraq. The size of the community shrank considerably over the past 12 years, as hardship caused by the sanctions pushed many to emigrate, especially young men.

The following is the text of the message read at the Chaldean church in Baghdad:

To all people of good will in the United States:

We U.S. religious leaders gather with our Iraqi brothers and sisters to pray for the common peace that we all desire. As women and men of faith, we have spent ten days in Iraq during this season of preparation for Christmas. We have met people like ourselves, people who hunger for peace. The Iraqi people have welcomed us with open arms and begged us to share with you the reality of their struggle.

We implore you, our fellow citizens of the United States, to look into the eyes of the people in Iraq. See the Jesuit-trained doctor who can barely contain his despair and the Muslim mother who grieves for her dying son. Listen to the taxicab driver who fears for the safety of his family, the Catholic sister who cares for pregnant mothers, and the orphaned children who sleep fitfully at night waiting for the sound of bombs. These are the people of Iraq-people who share our hopes and dreams for a peaceful world. All they want is to live with dignity in this ancient land of arid beauty.

But the Iraqi people have suffered for the past twelve years under the most comprehensive sanctions in modern history. Water and sewage treatment facilities are not functioning due to the lack of spare parts, and children die of water-born illnesses. Hospitals are crippled by old and broken-down machinery. Depleted uranium from US munitions is linked to a 400% increase in the cancer rate in southern Iraq-and this at a time when sanctions deny the people critical medicines needed for treatment of cancer and other diseases. The Iraqi people live lives of determined endurance, but many have revealed their anxiety and desperation. They ask us, "Why is this happening? Will sanctions end? Why can't we have peace?"

These are the people our government is preparing to sacrifice as "collateral damage" in an unconscionable war. As we speak, Iraqi people live in fear of an attack that could happen any day.

People of good will, we who live in the United States also know what it means to live in fear. We fear for the future of our families and our children. We fear the unpredictable violence of terrorism. We dread the weapons of mass destruction that exist in many nations, including our own, and that threaten the future of our entire planet.

Our government suggests that war is the answer to our fears. But war will never protect us -- it will endanger the entire human family. A war against the people of Iraq will slaughter thousands of innocent men, women and children in a land already devastated by sanctions. A war could also kill and injure countless young Americans. And a war will unleash violent repercussions and terrorist acts that could destroy our world.

War is not the answer. We must seek a path to peace.

Therefore, people of good will, join us in insisting that our government stop this madness and commit to a path of active nonviolent resolution. We as ordinary people can reach out to our Iraqi brothers and sisters, who are people like ourselves. Together we can support the work of the United Nations and other international efforts to build peace. Together we can work to create a world free of weapons of mass destruction, a world free of sanctions, violence and war. Together we can build a world where our voices speak peace, peace for all people. Then we will witness the words of the psalmist, "Mercy and faithfulness will meet, justice and peace will embrace...Justice shall march before us and peace shall follow in our steps." (Psalm 85)

Join us in prayer and action with all people of good will who yearn for this promise to flourish in our times.

In peace we pray,

Iraq Peace Journey: U.S. Religious Leaders Delegation;
-- David Robinson of Erie, Pa., National Director of Pax Christi USA
-- Sr. Kathy Thornton, R.S.M. of Washington, D.C., National Coordinator of NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby;
-- Fr. Roy Bourgeois, M.M. of Columbus, Ga., Maryknoll Missioner, National Coordinator of the School of the Americas Watch;
-- Sr. Simone Campbell, S.S.S. of Sacramento, Calif., Lawyer, Executive Director of JERICHO-an interfaith social justice lobby in California;
-- Sr. Lil Mattingly, M.M. - Maryknoll, N.Y., Maryknoll Missioner;
-- Sr. Beth Murphy, OP of Springfield, Ill., Communications Coordinator, Dominican Sisters of Springfield Ill;
-- Fr. John Grathwohl of Kalamazoo, Mich., Diocesan priest
-- Sheila Provencher of South Bend, Ind., freelance writer and speaker, lay minister;
-- Mary Trotochaud of Western Massachusetts, Member of the national advisory board of School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch);
-- Chuck Quilty of Rock Island, Ill., co-founder, Voices in the Wilderness;

-- Jeff
-- signature .

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup

E-Mail: ( default )
Optional Link ( default )
Optional Image Link ( default )

This board is powered by the Mr. Fong Device from