BY JOHN NEWTON
A SENIOR bishop in Iraq has demanded that the provincial government provides increased security for the region’s Christians following another attack on a church last week.
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need Syrian CatholicArchbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Kirkuk called on politicians to guarantee better protection.
According to the archbishop the terrorist car-bomb attack on Kirkuk’s Holy Family church was only possible because of inadequate security in the province.
He said: “The local government is weak and unable to assure security and stability in the region.” The archbishop said the responsibility lay with political leaders who were more concerned with their own status than the concerns of ordinary citizens.
He said: “Who is ultimately responsible? Is it not those who are immersed in political quarrels and interested only in safeguarding their own positions and maintaining their share of the nation’s wealth?” He called on Iraqi political and religious leaders to take a firm stand against the recent violence.
He said: “They need to strongly denounce this repulsive crime, which will badly damage the reputation of Islam and the dignity of Iraq.” Kirkuk Provincial Council issued a statement condemning the attacks shortly after they occurred, saying that “today’s assault on the Holy Family Church is a new black page in the history of the fundamentalist groups”.
The archbishop said the latest attack would not cause the Christian community to give up hope. “I hope that all what is happening in Iraq today will only serve to consolidate the firmness of faith of our Christians and their solidarity with one another,” he said.
He added: “No matter how big the evil may be, it can’t shake faithful hearts. Brave souls remain firm.” The car bomb exploded outside the Syrian-Catholic Church of the Holy Family in the city centre of Kirkuk last week, injuring up to 23 people.
The archbishop said: “It went off at half five in the morning, when the children were still asleep in their beds.
“The explosion from the car bomb sent an electricity generator flying, which made a large hole in the wall of the church.” He noted: “It was the second day of Ramadan, the month of repentance and forgiveness.” The explosion was so severe that people asleep in nearby homes were injured by falling glass and other debris.
Archbishop Mouche said the bomber may be “an Iraqi by passport, but certainly not in his heart, because a true Iraqi does not eat the flesh of his brother”.