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A Grateful Bishop

Joseph B. Sheppard

Prior to and during the recent war against the Hussein regime, many in this country expressed their opposition to such a conflict. There were, and probably are, those who stated that Iraq would be in worse shape after such a war than before. The tragic plight of the Chaldean Rite Catholics in Iraq was given as an example of how the war in Iraq would cause further suffering and persecution to members of the Church in that country. Indeed, there were numerous Catholics who declared the war immoral, and even some who felt that the Catholics who supported it were “excommunicated.” There is little doubt that these voices were expressing a heartfelt concern for their fellow Catholics in Iraq.

We hear often these days from the Vatican that all war is immoral and unjustified. One Cardinal recently stated that war is always a “defeat against humanity.” It matters not that Popes and Saints have called for wars. It would also seem to be immoral to fight against terrorists of any stripe.

Contrary to claims that the Chaldean Catholics did not want the coalition forces in Iraq, Bishop Rabban Al-Qas has made some interesting remarks and observations. Consider the statements made by this Chaldean Rite Prelate before the capture of Saddam Hussein:
“At least 80% of the Iraqi population regards the coalition troops as liberators.”
“The situation is better now than in the last years of the former regime.”
“We have electricity 24 hours a day, food is found with greater facility, people are going back to work in the fields, hospitals function. There are private clinics and also medicines.” “I can say that life is better than before.” (1)
Bishop Al-Qas acknowledged that the increased freedom has caused fanatical Muslim elements to be more brazen in their threats against Christians. Even under Hussein, the Bishop acknowledges that “it was prohibited to give children [of Christians] non-Arabic names. If the latter were from mixed marriages, they had to be registered as Muslims.” (2)
(1) “Iraqi Bishop Has Reason For Hope, and Concern”, Zenit, 12-03-2003.
(2) Ibid.
Since the capture of Saddam Hussein Bishop Al-Qas, recovering from a damaged leg injured in an explosion, has expressed more optimism. “The serpent’s head has been finally crushed. Now we can peacefully rebuild our country,” he has stated. He defines the coalition military presence as “liberating”, rather than the often used term “occupational.” (3)
(3) “The Serpent’s Head Has Been Crushed: Our Fears Are Finally Over”, AsiaNews, 12-15-2003.
A, Iraqi girl gives a flower to an American soldier

Bishop al-Qas affirmed that Iraqi Catholics are grateful for the American presence.

Catholic Iraqis warmly receive the American soldiers
AP photos, April 9, 2003
When asked what Saddam’s capture meant for the Church in Iraq, Bishop Al-Qas replied:
“Saddam’s capture and arrest does not mean one thing for the Church and another for Iraq citizens. Christians are not any different from the rest of the nation. Christ sent us to live within society. Under Saddam Hussein, the Church and the Iraqi populace suffered together. Under his dictatorial regime, we have all been persecuted: Christians, Shiites, Arabs, Kurds, and Syrian-Chaldeans alike. We are the Iraqi nation and it is we Iraqis who have been oppressed. Under Saddam Hussein, 85% of the population was suffocated. Everybody suffered a lot. Now people hope for a safer and more stable future.” (4)
Bishop Al-Qas expressed the following revealing view of the coalition forces:
“You all only listen to what press agencies report and how they define the presence of allied troops as ‘occupational,’ as I heard in Italy [as he attended the Chaldean Synod in Rome to elect Baghdad’s new Patriarch]. And now I way it again: For us [the coalition forces’ presence] is ‘liberating,’ not occupational. If they weren’t here, Iraqis would still be under [Saddam’s] yoke. But now, thank God, the nightmare is over.” (5)
Bishop Al-Qas continued:
“In the West, one hears the words ‘occupation’ and ‘Iraqi resistance’ and that Americans are not well liked. Certainly, the Americans probably made some mistakes and have destroyed things, but they are still our ‘liberators.’ The lack of tranquility is something we inherited from Saddam. Before he escaped, he freed all criminals, delinquents, thieves and evil persons from prisons. In the West, you marvel at the fact that in Iraq there are thefts, clashes and violence. But what happened in Italy after the [last] war? Weren’t there incidents of violence and thievery? And what about in France? Wasn’t there a black market, illegal expropriations [of land] and vendettas taken? Iraq needs time to rebuild herself, just like you did.” (6)
Finally, the Prelate spoke of what should be done with the captured dictator:
“This is something for those in charge of law and justice to decide. As Bishop, I say that it is just he has a trial before an Iraqi court of law. Even if he is evil, his dignity must be respected. But he needs to confess his crimes, to admit he killed and had killed millions of people. Even Christian forgiveness presupposes confession and atonement.” (7)

(4) Ibid.
(5) Ibid.
(6) Ibid.
(7) Ibid.
Bishop Al-Qas, although realistic about the possibility of increased persecution from unchecked Muslim fanaticism, has no misgivings about the liberation of Iraq by coalition forces. Indeed, in contrast to Western media, and others who accept at least some of their opinions, Bishop Al-Qas is most grateful for such a military presence.


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Posted January 7, 2004

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