A leading bishop in Iraq has spoken out against the government and security services for failing to protect Christians under threat from militants bent on driving them out of the country.
Archbishop Georges Casmoussa of Mosul spoke of possible collusion between anti-Christian terrorists and fringe political parties and criticized the authorities, saying they were “too busy holding meetings” to ensure the safety of minority groups.
In his interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which supports persecuted and other suffering Christians, the Syrian Catholic prelate said that a failure of Iraq’s army, police and government to “coordinate” meant that they were “opening the door to terrorists.”
The archbishop, who has called for UN intervention to protect Christians, was speaking after going to a hospital to visit some of the 163 people – most of them young people – who were injured in a bomb blast which targeted a convoy of buses packed with Christian students.
One male student – as yet unnamed – died instantly and two female students were reported to be in a critical condition following the attack which took place on Sunday (May 2nd) on the edge of Mosul, in the north of the country.
Describing how one student had had a leg amputated and another had suffered a serious eye injury, Archbishop Casmoussa said three students were in a critical condition and that plans were underway to transfer 15 people to a hospital in Turkey.
The violence is the latest in a series of anti-Christian attacks since 2004 which are widely understood to be part of a coordinated campaign to extinguish the presence of Iraq’s ancient Church, which dates back to earliest times.
Amid reports that Sunday morning’s explosions took place between two checkpoints, Archbishop Casmoussa blamed the authorities for failing to clamp down on terrorists.
He said, “We feel angry about what happened – and we are full of sadness for those who have suffered so much.”
“We feel there is no central power here. The authorities are too busy holding meetings and not enough is being done.”
He continued, “The army is not close to the government, the government is not close with the police.”
“You have people who are responsible but they are not coordinated in their actions and this opens the door to terrorists.”
Speaking of possible collusion between some political parties and criminals, he said, “Some politicians are involved in the actions of terrorists and sometimes murders take place in the name of political parties.”
He criticized the government for failing to bring terrorists to justice saying, “We hear that people who have killed Christians are in prison but legal judgments are not being brought against them.”
He added, “We call on the central government to find those responsible, to judge them and to try them according to international law.”
“This judgment must be open and known by the people. We ask the UN – and the US, who are masters of the situation – to help the minorities, especially Christians.”
Archbishop Casmoussa was speaking after a series of demonstrations against the poor security situation held on Sunday (May 2nd) and Monday (May 3rd) in Caramles, Qaraqosh, Alqosh, Bartalla and other predominantly Christian towns and villages outside Mosul.
Archbishop Casmoussa went on to appeal to the benefactors and friends of Aid to the Church in Need, asking them for prayer and continued support for suffering Christians in Iraq.
He said, “We ask that all of you associated with ACN continue to pray for us, to be our hope and to go on supporting our projects.”
“Our projects are crucial if we are to build a future for Christians in Iraq – to continue with the same hope and the same purpose in this country of ours.”
In accordance with the priorities set for the charity by Pope Benedict XVI, Iraq is a key area of Aid to the Church in Need’s work.
ACN help includes support for refugees from Iraq in Turkey, Jordan and Syria, as well as internally displaced people, Mass stipends for persecuted priests, seminary equipment, church buildings, assistance for religious congregations and aid for Sisters who give Easter and Christmas packages to displaced Christians in the north of the country.