Posted by Jeff from d53-237-236.try.wideopenwest.com (220.127.116.11) on Friday, January 17, 2003 at 8:26AM :
HALDEAN BISHOP QUESTIONS BUSH'S CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES
Courtesy of BBC (13 January)
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Baghdad Auxiliary Chaldean Bishop Monsignor Slamon Warduni has said that US President Bush is not acting in accordance with Christian principles. In an interview in an Italian newspaper, he said that if Bush attacks Iraq without the backing of the United Nations, that would make him too a dictator. The bishop added that Bush's use of the word "crusade" in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 events was ill-advised, since there were Christians in Muslim countries just as there were Muslims in the West. He also said that in Iraq his followers enjoyed freedom of worship, teaching and religious practice but "there is no religious freedom as such". The following is the text of an interview with Monsignor Slamon Warduni by Luigi Ippolito in Milan, date not given, published by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on 12 January:
"The Pope speaks, he speaks out a great deal, but no one listens to him, especially not in countries that call themselves Christian." This disconsolate and pained remark was made by a man of the [Roman Catholic] church. Monsignor Slamon Warduni is the auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean [Christian] Church in Baghdad. In practice, he is Patriarch Bidawid's right-hand man. He is a man accustomed to living on the border, accustomed to treading the narrow path down which allegiance to the gospel needs to move if it is to coexist with a despotic regime. Warduni was clear in outlining the argument for peace: "It is inconceivable that civilized men should be talking of war in the third millennium," he said.
The Iraqi bishop, who was visiting Milan as a guest of the Pax Christi association, is a representative of an extremely ancient Christian tradition that dates back to the first century after Christ and to the apostle Thomas's preaching in the Middle East. Some half a million people in Iraq today belong to the church which is loyal to the pope in Rome but which uses the traditional Chaldean ritual in Aramaic.
[Ippolito] A feature of the current US administration is its strong religious imprint, with President Bush himself heading the list. He claims to be a devout Christian. What would you as a bishop and a shepherd of souls have to say to George W. Bush the faithful Christian?
[Warduni] I would say that what he preaches does not lie within the rationale of the faith. Let us read the letter to John: God is love, he does not want to harm children, women, or the sick, who will be the holocaust victims of this war. If this war is taking place over weapons, then we can ask the question: What country in the world does not possess weapons? Does the United States not have any? Does Italy not have weapons? And Israel, does it not have weapons, including nuclear weapons? We are in favour of the destruction of all weapons, but throughout the world. What could Iraq do against the massive armaments that exist in the world today?
[Ippolito] Quite apart from all the statements being made by the politicians, the military machine appears at this juncture to be moving ahead, in keeping with a dynamic of its own that inexorably leads to war. Can no one do anything to prevent it? Is there nothing that can stop it?
[Warduni] The only one who can do anything is God, because human affairs appear in a negative light. The United Nations could do something, because if Bush refuses to accept even the United Nations then there is no difference between him and the dictators. Thus Europe is going to have to speak out: I am thinking of Germany which has come out firmly against the war. Finally, Christians must raise their voice in the world to say "no" to war and "yes" to peace, to justice and to dialogue.
[Ippolito] Ever since the days of the Gulf War back in 1991, Saddam Husayn has been seeking to promote an image of himself as the champion of the Arab and Muslim world against the aggression being perpetrated by the Christian West. Are you Iraqi Christians not in danger of being crushed by this cultural and religious "showdown" rationale?
[Warduni] I do not want to discuss political issues because there are topics that it is not prudent to address. But right now that danger does indeed exist. Bush was wrong to use the word "crusade" immediately after 11 September, because there are Muslims also in the West just as there are Christians in the Middle East. And those Christians are in great danger on account of the identification of Christianity with the West. That is another reason why our leaders are sometimes tempted to equate us with the Westerners. For our part, we have always been loyal to the government and to our country: Our troops have fought at the front alongside their Muslim brothers. There is harmony between the Christians and the Muslims. We are not like other countries where the two communities are at war.
[Ippolito] How do you experience your role as a Christian bishop in a country governed by a dictatorial regime and, what is more, with an overwhelming Muslim majority: Does that not put you in an awkward situation?
[Warduni] I do not want to discuss political issues, but what I will say is that we seek to assist the weak, including our Muslim brothers, because there is so much poverty on account of the embargo that is strangling us. We have to share our country's good and its ills.
[Ippolito] Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, one of the Iraqi regime's leading lights, is a member of your church. What kind of contact do you have with him?
[Warduni] Yes, Tariq Aziz is a Chaldean Catholic, but he is pursuing a political path; he does not address religious issues. That said, we have met on a number of occasions in order to resolve certain practical matters.
[Ippolito] Do you feel able to state that the Catholic Church enjoys full freedom of worship and of expression in Iraq?
[Warduni] In all conscience I can say that we have freedom of worship, of teaching and of religious practice in our churches, but there is no religious freedom as such: There is none anywhere in Islam, either in our country or anywhere else. What there is, however, is fanaticism that is increasing on account of the identification of Christianity with the West.
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