Concern Mounts in Iraq About Future of Religious Liberty

Priest Warns About Danger of Establishment of an Islamic State

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BAGHDAD, Iraq, APRIL 29, 2003 (ZENIT.org-Fides).- The international media described the recent Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala "as a symbol of victory." But many Iraqi Christians see it differently.



They are increasingly concerned about the future of religious freedom in the country.

"The journalists reporting the events did not fully understand the situation and what a demonstration of this sort actually meant," said Father Nizar Semaan, a Syrian priest of the Diocese of Nineveh.

"We see these events with apprehension, not because we are against freedom of belief and religion which we want as the foundation for the new Iraq, but because we are familiar with the mentality and culture of Shiite Muslims and we know that what they want is a theocratic Iraq founded on Islamic law," Father Semaan explained.

"There is a danger that we Christians may have to choose between remaining in Iraq as second-class citizens deprived of our rights, or leaving this land of our fathers," he added.

"We were sorry to see that while the Shiite gatherings were broadcast far and wide, no media attention was given to Christians in Iraq who at the time were celebrating Easter," the priest said.

"While we were praying for peace and true freedom and democracy, our Shiite Muslim brothers were chanting slogans for an Islamic state and a new war," he noted.

The priest added: "I hope the rest of the world will see the danger and continue to help Iraq become a truly secular and democratic country where all groups are respected."