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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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Irish Elk
Tuesday, April 15, 2003  
Moral suasion?

The president of Pax Christi International, Patriarch Michel Sabbah, of Jerusalem, who recently held forth on the 40th anniversary of Pacem in Terris (13th item), is himself in thrall to the PLO. You do the math.

The Middle East Council of Churches was groping a bit for a response to the fall of Baghdad, which didn't fit the house playlist: The turn of events yesterday in Iraq, and especially in Baghdad, has prompted different reactions around the region and globally, the MECC commented April 10. Not many people are quite sure about what is happening with the sudden collapse of the Iraqi government structure and the ensuing images of jubilation by the people of Iraq.

Previously the MECC had been quite sure about what was happening. "Today we have witnessed the start of a military campaign against the people and the land of Iraq," the heads of member churches declared in a March 21 communique. The statement, said the MECC general secretary, "condemns the war against Iraq, and brands it as immoral. The war contradicts to the very core the most fundamental human values."

Catholic members of the MECC are the Armenian Catholic Church of Cilicia, the Chaldean Catholic Church of Babylon, the Coptic Catholic Church of Alexandria, the Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, Alexandria & Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Maronite Church of Antioch, and the Syrian Catholic Church of Antioch.

The MECC has a weblog that includes among its bookmarks this site, Middle East Christians Against the War on Iraq and the Occupation of Palestine, which is a place to go if you want to read Eve Ensler's and Michael Moore's protests on Iraq, or pay online tribute to Rachel Corrie.

Chaldean Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad was outspoken in calling for a cease to the bombing that drove Saddam from power. "The war itself is a violation of human rights", he added. "With what right do they do this? The UN Security Council must make decisions, not single states. I say to you that our children cry out to heaven; our women, youth and old people ask God for peace: Peace, not war! Stop the war!"

Previously Bishop Warduni had urged "no blood for oil."

We do not understand this war. It is a threat to our children, our elderly, our sick, our young people, who for 12 years have known nothing about their future. Where is freedom? Where is Christian charity?"

"We ask to live like men, we do not ask for anything extraordinary," he added. "Why do they have to come here? Because we have oil? Let them take the oil but leave us in peace.

It should be noted that "peace" in Iraq before last week meant this.

Meantime, this from Catholic World News (ninth item): The Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Basra, Iraq, is showing journalists "the gift I have received from Bush." Archbishop Djibrail Kassab has put a label -- "April 3, 2:30 a.m." -- on his piece of U.S. shrapnel. "I was in my bed with the windows opened out in case the glass shattered," he told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. U.S.-led forces "bombed offices of the Foreign Ministry about 30 yards away," he said. "This is the fragment of an American missile that landed at the foot of my bed." The archbishop said he was not hurt. He said Basra, with its tiny Christian minority, always has been a city marked by religious tolerance. "In these days of terror, Christians and Muslims have drawn even closer to each other. We were under the same bombs," he said in the interview published April 9.

Archbishop Kassab told the Washington Post things had been quiet in Basra before: "We need security. There is no security in the city," said Archbishop Gabriel Kassab, 64, leader of southern Iraq's small Catholic Chaldean community. "I think that is the responsibility of the Americans and British. Before they came, the city was very quiet. . . . Then there was trouble."

The walls at the White Lion must have been thick enough to keep the screams from disturbing the quiet.

This article from The Telegraph last year describes the bargain the Syrian Catholic archbishop of Baghdad and other Catholics had struck with Saddam to ensure his tolerance.

The Catholic clerics of the region were among the loudest echoing the Iraqi government line on the hardship caused the Iraqi people by sanctions -- at the same time Saddam was stocking palaces with gold bathroom-fittings and Uday was maintaining a private harem and zoo while hoarding UNICEF shipments.

Perhaps the Christian churches in the Middle East have felt it necessary to reach CNN-style accommodations with despotism.

But to the extent the Vatican's views on Iraq and the Middle East are informed by such sources, the Holy See has been getting advice from an appeasement lobby, at the least, and from collaborationists with fascism, at the worst.


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