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Thursday, January 25, 2007

An Urgent Appeal

As a traditionalist Catholic I have sometimes been accused of wanting to cut myself off from the mainstream Church and live in a trad cocoon. I've never agreed with that interpretation. It might fit some people in the SSPX or the sedevacantists but I've always seen the traditionalists as being an active part of the Church. In the hope that others share this view I present the following appeal to help the Roman Catholics of Iraq.
There is an urgent crisis in the Middle East. The Christian population of Iraq (the vast majority of whom are Chaldean Rite or Melkite Rite Roman Catholics) are facing a catastrophe. This, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world faces extinction unless we help them. Before the war in 1991 there were nearly one and a half million Christians in Iraq. Since then this number has nearly halved as they have been either forced or driven to emigrate. The fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime has lifted the lid on the ethnic and religious rivalries and hatreds that exist amongst Iraq’s diverse communities. Despite the sympathy of Iraq’s other religious leaders, the Christians are being assailed from many angles. They are caught between the Sunni/Shia rivalry and are attacked as ‘infidels’ by those who want to establish an Islamic state. They are seen as collaborators with the occupation despite the fact that they have largely stayed out of politics. Because many Christians were found amongst the professional classes they are attacked for their imagined wealth – this despite the fact that the majority are as poor as any other Iraqis. Priests have been kidnapped – one, a Syrian Orthodox priest, was martyred in Mosul, this despite his family paying the ransom. In Baghdad the seminary has been forced to relocate to the Kurdish north after the rector was kidnapped (he was released – Deo Gratias). But the suffering is not confined to Iraq; many Christians have fled to Syria (where Christians make up 10% of the population), to Jordan and to other countries in the region. These people are often desperately poor and are usually unable to find work or gain access to social services. The local Churches are doing what they can to help but they are swamped by the sheer demand.

As traditionalists we can, and we must, help our Catholic brothers and sisters in Iraq. Firstly, we must pray for them and for their intentions. Pray the Rosary or pray for the intercession of Our Lady and the Saints. Arrange Mass intentions for the Iraqi Christians. Raise the issue in your Church communities - maybe you can collectively do something to help. Too often people know nothing about what is happening.

Aid to the Church in Need is running a Middle East appeal. In the UK you can send donations marked for the Middle East to: ACN, 1 Times Square, Sutton, Surrey SM1 1LF. Tel. 020 8642 8668. There are other organisations providing assistance but I do not have contact details for them.
There must be other things that can be done. I know that, taken individually, what we do may not seem like much but we CAN make a real difference if enough people spare a moment for our Iraqi brethren

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