Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In Detroit, Delly Tells US: "Do More"

Visiting his community's large diaspora in Detroit, the cardinal-patriarch of the suffering Chaldean church -- whose historic elevation made him the "star" of last year's consistory -- called for more effort from Iraq's foreign occupiers:
"The powers occupying could do a lot more to help bring about peace, reconciliation and security," Cardinal Mar Emmanuel III Delly, the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, said at the local Catholic diocese for the Chaldean Church. "We are puzzled as to why they have not done more to bring about peace and security in Iraq."

Delly's visit to metro Detroit -- home to one of the largest Chaldean communities in the West -- is part of a tour of the United States to highlight the plight of Iraq since the U.S.-led war started in 2003. Delly, 81, said the invasion and occupation of Iraq by coalition forces has hurt the country.

"The absolute worst time that I've seen in my life has been the last five years," he said.

There is a "complete breakdown of security," he added, saying that "the occupation has not been good for the Christians and for all of Iraq."

Delly said that about 40% of Iraq's 1.25 million Christians have fled the country during the past five years, but he said that Christianity will continue to survive in Iraq.

"Since the Fourth Century, our church and our people have been persecuted," he said. "The faith of our fathers was strong, and the faith of their descendants is still strong, and this is what keeps us going."

Chaldeans are Iraqi Catholics and many of them have been targeted by Islamic extremists over the past five years.

But Delly stressed that Islam was not to blame.

"Radical Islamists, the fundamentalists, are not being true to the essence of Islam," Delly said. "If they were to be more true, they would be more tolerant. There are Christians who also tend to be fundamentalists...Most Muslims do not accept or condone what their radical coreligionists do in their name."

Delly said that extremists are harming all of Iraq.

"In addition to churches, there are many mosques that were damaged" by them, he said.

One problem is the perception, he said, that the U.S. troops are favoring Christians in Iraq.

"That is not true," he said. "America did not give any preference to us."

Delly said "there is no official persecution" from the Iraqi government, but that the attacks against Christians come from "individuals in the country who are antagonistic."

In recent months, Chaldean leaders in Iraq have been killed. Asked if he fears for his life, Delly said:

"Even an earthworm, when somebody tries to touch it, shrivels, sensing danger. So, it is normal for an intelligent human being to protect himself when there is danger around. This is a natural thing that the good Lord instilled in all of us to try and protect all creatures."

Regarding the future, Delly said that "I can't tell what the future will bring" but added that "the church is still OK in Iraq and we hope it will stay that way...I still have hope things will improve in the future."
Earlier this year, the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul was abducted by militants and later found dead.

Having spent the last month in the States, the 81 year-old patriarch heads back to his Baghdad headquarters tomorrow.