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WikiLeaks: 2006-10-19: 06VATICAN219: Chaldean: Iraqi Christians Targeted after Pope's Remarks

by WikiLeaks. 06VATICAN219: October 19, 2006.

Posted: Thursday, October 04, 2012 at 06:34 PM UT


Viewing cable 06VATICAN219, CHALDEAN: IRAQI CHRISTIANS TARGETED AFTER POPE'S REMARKS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06VATICAN219 2006-10-19 10:42 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET Embassy Vatican
VZCZCXRO4006
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHROV #0219/01 2921042
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 191042Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0526
INFO RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0068
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0021
RUEHVV/ISLAMIC CONFERENCE COLLECTIVE
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0554
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 VATICAN 000219 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/WE LARREA; NEA/I, DRL/IRF 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  10/19/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PHUM PINR IZ VT
SUBJECT: CHALDEAN: IRAQI CHRISTIANS TARGETED AFTER POPE'S REMARKS 
 
REF: A) VATICAN 000206, ET AL.  B) VATICAN 000181 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Peter G. Martin, POL ECON Chief, AMEMB VATICAN, 
STATE. 
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1.  (S) Summary: Monsignor Philip Najim, Representative of the 
Chaldean Catholic Church to the Holy See, and the Chaldean 
Patriarch's First Counselor, Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim of Detroit, 
Michigan told Poloff in a recent meeting that Christians faced 
increasing violence in Iraq.  They said the papal remarks in 
Regensburg (ref A) had provided already-hostile elements within 
Iraq the excuse to target Christians in an effort to further 
their own agendas.  The circumstances surrounding the recent 
kidnapping, interrogation and release of a Chaldean priest may 
indicate that former regime elements are using the pope's 
remarks to isolate and drive-out the Christian community in 
Iraq.  Although the Holy See itself is less sure that recent 
problems for Christians were caused by the pope's remarks, the 
pope himself is very concerned about the Chaldean Church in Iraq 
and made an early October statement in apparent response to the 
kidnappers' demand for a papal apology.  End Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------------------- 
Iraqi Christians Targeted After Pope Delivers Regensburg Remarks 
--------------------------------------------- ------------------- 
 
2.  (C) Najim said the security environment for Iraqi Christians 
had changed dramatically after the adverse publicity the Pope's 
Regensburg comments received in Iraq.  In contrast to his August 
2006 comments (ref B) indicating Christians were not targeted 
based on their religious affiliation (Comment: Najim and other 
Chaldean interlocutors have expressed varying views on this 
issue over the last few years), Najim now indicates that 
Christians and church institutions face daily attacks and 
threats specifically because of their religion and association 
with the pope and his comments. 
 
3.  (C) According to Najim, Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel Delly 
met recently with Iraqi government officials including Prime 
Minister Maliki and President Talabani seeking their assistance 
in support of the Iraqi Christian community.  Najim also 
indicated that Delly continues to seek support and cooperation 
with the Muslim Community and had met recently with the Grand 
Ayatollah Sistani and Ulema Council Leader Harith al-Dhari. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
Kidnappers: "We Have a Message for the Pope" 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
4.  (S) Najim briefed on the September 2006 abduction and 
release of Iraqi Chaldean Priest Father Saleem Yaldo, the 
personal secretary to the Chaldean Patriarch and the head of a 
Baghdad Parish.  Najim said Yaldo's kidnappers, who he believes 
are associated with the former regime, wanted to obtain 
information on the exact nature of the Chaldean Church in Iraq 
and released Yaldo for the specific purpose of carrying a threat 
to the Pope.  According to Najim, the kidnappers' motivation was 
to make the United States appear weak and to demonstrate that 
the former regime still holds power within Iraq. 
 
5.  (S) Najim said the kidnappers made four specific demands of 
Yaldo: 1) inform the pope that Christians are not welcome in 
Iraq as a result of his Regensburg comments and that the pope 
must apologize for his comments; 2) severe all contact and 
cooperation between the Chaldean Church and the Government of 
Iraq; 3) severe all contact and cooperation between the Chaldean 
Church and the United States; and finally 4) all Christians must 
immediately leave the Baghdad neighborhoods of Karada, Dora, 
Kadhimya, and Al-Jadida (New Baghdad) or face death.  (Note: 
Patriarch Delly was in Rome at the time of our meeting but 
demurred on a formal meeting with us due to the sensitivities 
involved with Yaldo's kidnapping and associated threats.) 
 
6.  (S) Najim claimed that the interrogation techniques used by 
the kidnappers where eerily similar to the techniques used by 
the former regime's intelligence service.  Yaldo was 
interrogated by a three-person team headed by exceptionally 
intelligent and well-dressed heavy-set man in his early fifties 
with grey hair and beard.  According to Najim (and as later 
related to us by Yaldo), the interrogations, which lasted 
approximately three hours and were tape-recorded, were conducted 
by the team's leader.  The second team member stood behind Yaldo 
with a pistol to his head and the third member of the team stood 
behind the interrogator observing Yaldo.  Any time the third 
member thought he detected a lie or inconsistency in Yaldo's 
response, he would signal the member standing behind Yaldo to 
hit Yaldo with the pistol's butt.  It was clear, Najim stated, 
that the interrogators were double-checking Yaldo's answers 
after each of the interrogation sessions with outside parties 
 
VATICAN 00000219  002 OF 002 
 
 
and then used the information gleaned at the following session 
to threaten Yaldo and to extract additional information. Najim 
also mentioned the Kidnappers told Yaldo "it is good you are not 
Shiite."  Yaldo showed us the marks he still bore on his arms as 
a result of being bound with telephone cords during his ordeal. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
Pope Makes Declaration in Support of Iraqi Christians 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
7.  (C) After receiving a detailed brief from Patriarch Delly 
regarding the Yaldo kidnapping and the kidnappers' demands, Pope 
Benedict XVI spoke out on October 1, 2006 in support of the 
Iraqi Christian community and expressed his desire for the 
peaceful coexistence of Christians and Muslims in Iraq.  The 
pope indicated that Patriarch Delly had spoken to him of the 
violence faced by the Christian community in Iraq "where 
Christians and Muslims have lived together for fourteen 
centuries as children of the same land." (Comment: The pope 
likely did not make his comments solely to address the 
kidnappers' demands - he has often spoken out on peace and 
violence in Iraq - but the timing of his remarks was more than a 
coincidence.) 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
"I am Already Dead": The Rape/Suicide of a Christian Girl 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
8.  (C) Najim provided an example of the recent escalation of 
violence directed toward Christians, telling of the recent 
kidnapping, rape and suicide of a young Christian girl. 
According to Najim, a young Christian girl was kidnapped 
recently in Baghdad and held for ransom.  When her kidnappers 
told her to call her family to tell them she was alive, she told 
her family not to pay the ransom because "I am already dead" and 
then disconnected the call.  She apparently had been raped 
repeatedly by her captors as a "whore of the pope" and later, 
because of her shame, committed suicide by taking an overdose of 
medicine. 
 
---------------------------- 
Comment: Sobering Encounters 
---------------------------- 
 
9.  (C) Najim's concern for the Chaldean community - and for all 
Christians in Iraq - has been a constant refrain in the many 
conversations we have had with him.  This conversation was 
markedly different in its tone, as both Najim and Ibrahim 
expressed little hope that the situation for Christians in Iraq 
would improve.  Though we did not meet formally with Patriarch 
Delly, we did see him by chance at the Vatican.  He gave Poloff 
an emotional embrace, and struggled to maintain his composure as 
he spoke of his community's current struggles.  Officials in the 
Vatican's MFA were not ready to admit that the pope's Regensburg 
remarks had worsened the fortunes of Christians in Iraq, but 
they told us that Delly had provided the most sobering accounts 
of the plight of Iraqi Christians that they had ever heard - and 
had gained the pope's full attention (septel).  Our Chaldean 
interlocutors told us that the papal remarks had provided 
already-hostile elements within Iraq the excuse to target 
Christians in an effort to bolster their standing within the 
insurgency.  Najim and Ibrahim told us that what remains of the 
Christian community is staying away from the Church - and many 
may join their co-religionists in fleeing the country. 
SANDROLINI

 



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