Iraqi Christian Leaders Call on Baghdad Government to Defend Minority Rights
On Saturday, the CSI co-sponsored 2nd All-Iraqi Christian Leadership Conference issued an eight-point appeal urging the Baghdad government to help Iraq's dwindling minority community survive inside the country. Convening on Saturday, June 26 just outside Mosul in the town of Kara Kosh (Hamdaniya), 76 Iraqi Christian leaders from a variety of churches, political parties and civil society groups, together with representation from other minorities, called for:
1) Constitutional amendments to strengthen minority rights and legislation for the implementation of constitutional guarantees;
2) Adequately financed and rationally conceived programs designed to facilitate the voluntary return of the country's refugees;
3) National Commission for Minority Affairs to promote peaceful dialogue between religious and ethnic groups;
4) A University in Nineveh Province;
5) Security for vulnerable minority communities;
6) Fulfillment of Iraq's obligation to respect international human rights instruments;
7) Increased representation of Christians in the federal and state parliaments; and
8) Increased investment in the infrastructure of previously marginalized areas populated mainly by minorities.
Dr. John Eibner, CEO of CSI's U.S. affiliate warned that the prospect of extinction still faces Iraq's ancient Christian community, and would do so until violent persecution ceases and basic human rights are guaranteed in word and deed.
In an interview with Iraq's Mosuli TV, Eibner noted that the considerable progress providing security in Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province during the past year is reversible.
Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, nearly half of Iraq's approximately one million Christians have been forced by violence to flee the country, while many other remain in Iraq as destitute Internally Displaced People.
The Governor of Nineveh Province, Athil Al-Najifi, in his role as Conference Patron, announced that outside interference and instrumentalization of minorities in Nineveh is coming to an end, and expressed willingness to establish a mechanism, including all elements of civil society, to defend minority rights.
William Warda, President of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization (HHRO) claimed that neither the Iraqi nor the American governments are acting with sufficient energy and foresight to end the violent persecution of Iraq's Christians and to create conditions for the return of refugees.
The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako, urged Christians not to leave Iraq, emphasizing the need for an enduring Christian witness in the country.
The Conference was co-sponsored by CSI and by HHRO.