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WikiLeaks: 2007-06-21: 07VATICAN99: Iraq: Christians Fleeing Forced Conversions

by WikiLeaks. 07VATICAN99: June 21, 2007.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 05:26 PM UT


Viewing cable 07VATICAN99, IRAQ: CHRISTIANS FLEEING FORCED CONVERSIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07VATICAN99 2007-06-21 19:21 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vatican
VZCZCXRO2296
PP RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHFL RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHSR
DE RUEHROV #0099/01 1721921
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211921Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0750
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM  MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0026
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0001
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0780
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 VATICAN 000099 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/WE LARREA; NEA/I, DRL/IRF 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  6/21/2017 
TAGS: PREL MOPS PGOV KIRF PHUM IZ SW VT
SUBJECT: IRAQ: CHRISTIANS FLEEING FORCED CONVERSIONS 
 
REF: A. A. BAGHDAD 1975 
     B. B. VATICAN 0074 
     C. C. 06 VATICAN 00219 
     D. D. 04 VATICAN 00712 
     E. E. 03 VATICAN 5628 
 
VATICAN 00000099  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Christopher J. Sandrolini, Deputy Chief of 
Mission, Embassy Vatican. 
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 
------- 
 
Summary 
 
------- 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  Monsignor Philip Najim, Representative of the 
Chaldean Catholic Church to the Holy See and the Chaldeans' 
European representative, told us in a May meeting that 
Christians were continuing to flee Iraq in large numbers due to 
an active campaign of forced conversions to Islam and the 
continued violence directed toward priests, nuns, and churches. 
Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly is now more favorably 
disposed to the establishment of a Christian enclave in 
Kurdistan as a last gasp attempt to keep the faithful in Iraq. 
The Chaldean Church is also taking steps to establish an active 
pastoral effort in countries such as Sweden where there is now a 
large Iraqi Christian refugee population.  Najim also asked the 
USG to take steps to protect Christians in Iraq, stating that 
the loss of Christianity in Iraq will be a loss for all. 
Meanwhile, a Rome memorial service for slain Iraqi priest 
Ragheed Ganni focused Holy See attention once again on the 
threat to Christian communities in Iraq.  End Summary. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
 
Iraqi Chaldeans Fleeing Forced Conversions 
 
------------------------------------------ 
 
2.  (C) Monsignor Philip Najim, the Chaldean Catholic 
Representative to the Holy See, told us in a May meeting that 
the Chaldean Church in Iraq was slowly vanishing due to the 
steady barrage of violence it faces on a daily basis.  As 
reported in reftels, the targeting of priests, nuns, and 
churches by extremist and criminal elements in Iraq has 
decimated the Chaldean Church and its faithful, leading to a 
disproportionate outward migration flow of Christian refugees 
from Iraq.  (Note:  UNHCR reports that while Iraqi Christians 
comprise three percent of Iraq's population, they accounted for 
as high as 40 percent of registered refugees fleeing Iraq early 
on and now they make up closer to 20 percent of the total). 
 
3.  (C) Najim described how the Christians in Al Dorha and other 
areas of Baghdad are targeted for forced conversion to Islam by 
extremists who cruise neighborhoods announcing on megaphones 
that Christians must convert or face death.  In "more tolerant" 
areas, said Najim, Christians are told that they must either 
convert to Islam or pay the tax of "jizya."  According to Najim, 
most Christians with any financial wherewithal had already left 
Iraq, and there are only about seventy-five Christian families 
left in Al Dorha, an area that had been almost fifty percent 
Christian as late as 2003.
 
--------------------------------------------- --------------- 
 
Christian Autonomous Zone in Kurdistan "Better Than Nothing" 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------------- 
 
4.  (C) Patriarch Delly is becoming more and more concerned 
about the very existence of the Church in Iraq and is now 
favorably disposed to the creation of an autonomous zone in 
northern Iraq for Iraqi Christians, said Najim.  The Minister of 
 
VATICAN 00000099  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
Finance for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is funding 
the construction of houses for Chaldeans fleeing Baghdad within 
an existing Christian enclave in Kurdistan, he said.  Najim 
indicated the Patriarch has switched his stance on a Christian 
autonomous zone in northern Iraq because "a Christian village in 
Iraq is better than nothing at all." 
 
--------------------------------- 
 
Tending to the Faithful in Sweden 
 
--------------------------------- 
 
5.  (C) Najim described how the Patriarch had recently 
reassigned five priests to Sweden from their shuttered parishes 
in Baghdad to look after recently-arrived Chaldean Christians 
refugees in Sweden.  The Church's biggest challenge is to 
minister to those Chaldeans who have fled Iraq for countries 
where there is no established Church presence, Najim explained. 
"Our work in Sweden is an example of how we are attempting to 
maintain contact with our faithful outside Iraq," he said. 
 
6.  (C) Najim estimated that Sweden had taken in over 
twenty-five thousand Chaldeans during the last few years.  "We 
are very appreciative to the government of Sweden for accepting 
our people," said Najim, "but we are also very concerned about 
whether we will be able to tend to their needs in Sweden."  He 
described a GoS integration program for Iraqi refugees that ties 
a monthly stipend for housing and food to attendance at Swedish 
culture and language classes.  Najim voiced concern that 
Chaldeans would "lose their faith" as they assimilated into 
Swedish society.  He also mentioned concerns about an active 
group of evangelical Muslims in Sweden targeting Iraqi 
Christians for conversion. 
 
------------------------------------ 
 
Christians Play a Vital Role in Iraq 
 
------------------------------------ 
 
7.  (C) Najim implored the USG to take whatever action was 
possible to help preserve the Chaldean community in Iraq, noting 
the vital role played by Christians in Iraqi society, and the 
traditional tolerance of Christians in Iraq.  He noted that 
Christian schools, which were normally 20 percent Christian 
students and 80 percent Muslim, were considered the best in Iraq 
and successfully produced a very well educated professional 
class that continues to contribute to Iraqi society.  He added 
that Jesuit-run Baghdad College had produced many of the most 
capable leaders and professionals in Iraqi society (e.g. Ayad 
Allawi, Ahmed Chalabi, Adel Abdul Mahdi, Laith Kubba, and Kanan 
Makiya). Najim also pointed out that the Holy See depends on the 
Chaldeans for any communications and dealing with the Orthodox 
Churches in the Middle East.  "If the Chaldean Church disappears 
from Iraq, we will all lose," Najim concluded. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
Memorial Service Highlights Christian Plight 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
8. (SBU) A June 7 memorial service for Chaldean priest Father 
Ragheed Ganni, slain June 3 in Mosul, again focused Holy See 
attention on the plight of Christians in Iraq.  Father Ganni had 
resided at the Pontifical Irish College while studying in Rome, 
 
VATICAN 00000099  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
and had a wide network of friends and colleagues.  A packed 
chapel at the Irish College included members of the Holy See 
diplomatic corps, several cardinals, and officials from the 
Vatican Curia (bureaucracy).  Several media outlets were also on 
hand reporting on the widespread grief of the congregation, and 
the sense that Christians were under attack in Iraq - and 
becoming an endangered species.  Though we understand subsequent 
reports indicate that Ganni's death may have been a car-jacking 
gone bad rather than a targeted killing, the community has no 
doubt that Ganni was killed for his faith.  Some mentioned to us 
previous threats that he had received from Islamists. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
Pope Benedict Voices Concern for Iraqi Christians 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
9.  (C) Pope Benedict XVI received Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of 
the Assyrian Church of the East, in Rome June 21.  The Pope 
observed that "particularly in Iraq, the homeland of so many of 
the Assyrian faithful, Christian families and communities are 
feeling increased pressure from insecurity, aggression and a 
sense of abandonment.  Many of them see no other possibility 
than to leave the country and to seek a new future abroad. 
These difficulties are a source of great concern to me". 
Patriarch Delly was also present at the Pope's June 21 audience 
for the Aid Agencies of the Oriental Churches.  The Pope 
repeated his concern for Iraq and the Holy Land and called on 
participants to ensure that their intervention in favor of the 
suffering populations become more incisive. He also renewed his 
condolences for the recent killing of priests in Iraq. 
 
------- 
 
Comment 
 
------- 
 
10.  (C) We have heard and reported many times in the past on 
concern from Najim and Vatican officials for the survival of the 
Christian community in Iraq, but preoccupation here has reached 
a new level.  As presented by Najim, the Patriarch's change of 
heart on the autonomous Christian zone in Kurdistan is an 
indication of the desperation Chaldeans feel to do anything they 
can to maintain a presence in Iraq.  With both the Pope and 
Secretary of State Bertone raising the issue with President Bush 
 
SIPDIS 
in their June 9 meeting, Najim is not alone in his concern. 
ROONEY

 



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