Monday, 17 November 2003

Mosul (Fides Service )- Fides has received news of serious acts of intimidation against Christian communities in Mosul northern Iraq. “Last week a bomb was found in front of Catholic school in Mosul; luckily it was defused before it could explode. The bomb was a cluster of low potential hand grenades but it could have killed or injured the children. For security reasons the school was closed for a good week” local Chaldean Catholic priest Father Nizar Semaan in Mosul told Fides Service. “Also last week a round of kalashnikov was fired against the residence of the Syro-Antiochian Bishop in my city”.
“This is probably the work of Wahabi extremists in Mosul” the priest said. [Wahabi Muslims, a puritanical sect from Saudi Arabia] “With these actions of intimidation extremists want to demonstrate their power, and what is more serious, to prevent the civil society from returning to normality. In Mosul, in fact, work is being done to repair roads and public buildings such as schools and hospitals. The extremists want to impose their law of intolerance and violence in cities like Mosul which have a long tradition of respect among religions and ethnic groups. In Mosul, in fact, the main occupation is trade and merchants are known for their vision of tolerance and openness”
In recent weeks in northern Iraq acts of violence against American troops have intensified. Two days ago to US military helicopters crashed after one of them had been hit by rocket. “I do not know if there is any relation between those who attack the Americans the those who intimidate Christians”, Fr Nizar told Fides. “All I can say is that Wahabi extremists were present under the regime of Saddam Hussein, although they kept a low profile. Now they are coming into the open, expanding their activity and recruiting more members. The Wahabi receive solid financial backing from abroad and it is easy for them to find new members among the many unemployed youths.”
“In this regard I would give an example of how money is used to spread an Islamic vision of society ” Fr Nizar told Fides. “When I was at Mosul university in the 1980s girls wearing veils were about one in forty. Today we see the exact opposite: 40 veiled girls and one with a bare head! This is because fundamentalists pay girls to wear a veil ”.
“Those who have in hand the destiny of Iraq must not allow anyone to put an end to the tradition of tolerance and peaceful co-existence among followers of different religions. We do not want Iraq to become another Lebanon” Fr. Nizar concludes (L.M) (Fides Service 17/11/2003 lines 37 words 472)