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WikiLeaks: 2009-07-23: 09BAGHDAD1988: Christian Leaders Discuss July 12 Church Bombings

by WikiLeaks. 09BAGHDAD1988: July 23, 2009.

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 08:49 AM UT


Viewing cable 09BAGHDAD1988, CHRISTIAN LEADERS DISCUSS JULY 12 CHURCH BOMBINGS

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09BAGHDAD1988 2009-07-23 11:14 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO4540
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #1988/01 2041114
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231114Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4048
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 001988 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/22/2019 
TAGS: KIRF PGOV PTER IZ
SUBJECT: CHRISTIAN LEADERS DISCUSS JULY 12 CHURCH BOMBINGS 
 
REF: A. BAGHDAD 1891 
     B. BAGHDAD 1957 
     C. BAGHDAD 1890 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Robert Ford for Reason 1.4 (d). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
1. (C) In the wake of the July 12 church bombings in Baghdad, 
we have met with representatives of the four largest churches 
in Iraq, including the heads of the Chaldean, Assyrian, and 
Syriac Catholic denominations as well as the Christian 
endowment and various Christian political leaders to express 
U.S. concern and solidarity.  Church leaders tell us that the 
GOI has increased security around churches since the bombings 
and has promised additional financial support.  At the same 
time, Christian religious leaders emphasize that the recent 
bombings are only a symptom of wider issues with regard to 
security, unemployment, and discrimination.  In turn, we have 
stressed our continued commitment to the security and 
economic development of Iraq through our assistance programs 
to the Iraqi Security Forces and USAID.  We have also pledged 
to raise with the GOI the need for effective security at 
Christian facilities and are exploring ways to establish a 
direct liaison between Christian religious leaders and ISF 
officials.  End summary. 
 
---------------------- 
Latest on The Bombings 
---------------------- 
 
2. (C) On July 12, six churches were bombed in simultaneous 
attacks throughout Baghdad resulting in four deaths and over 
20 wounded (ref A).  On July 13, a bomb also detonated in the 
vicinity of a church in Mosul, although it is not clear 
whether the attack was directed specifically against the 
church as a Shia mosque was also in the vicinity and suffered 
greater damage.  Church leaders remain unsure of who is 
responsible for the bombings and have told us that they find 
it strange that no one has claimed responsibility.  With 
respect to the Baghdad attacks, only one, a car bomb located 
at the Church of the Virgin Mary, resulted in casualties. 
 
3. (C) Georges Bakoos, the Prime Minister's Advisor on 
Christian Affairs, told Poloff on July 16 that he thought 
al-Qaida was responsible for this attack.  He also stated 
that the MOI investigation into the car bombing revealed that 
there was a guard at the church at the time of the attack. 
According to Bakoos, the attacker parked his car with the 
bomb in front of the church, claimed he had broken down and 
told the guard he was going to find a mechanic.  Rather than 
insist that the driver push his car away from the church or 
arrest him, the guard allowed the man to walk away and the 
bomb exploded some time later.  Bakoos argued that this 
showed that security at churches was present, but that it 
needed to be better trained to prevent further attacks. 
Separately, Bishop Wardouni told the Charge on July 20 that 
after the first attack on July 12 against the Church of St. 
George, he had contacted the 11th division of the ISF which 
has responsibility for security in the area, but that they 
could not respond in time to prevent the other bombings. 
 
---------------- 
Embassy Outreach 
---------------- 
 
4. (C) Since the attacks, the Embassy has met with Christian 
religious leaders to emphasize our strong interest in 
ensuring the safety and well being of Iraq's minority 
communities.  On July 15, Ambassador Hill met with Patriarch 
of the Chaldean Church, Cardinal Emmanuel Delly (ref B) and 
on July 14, Poloff met with the Patriarch of the Assyrian 
Church Mar Addai.  On July 20, the Charge hosted a lunch for 
group of Christian leaders including Archbishop Matti Matouka 
(head of the Syriac Catholic Church), Monsignor Rafael 
Qutaymi (Syriac Catholic), Bishop Shlaimon Wardouni (deputy 
QQutaymi (Syriac Catholic), Bishop Shlaimon Wardouni (deputy 
to the Chaldean Patriarch), Monsignor Nimat Benjamin and 
Father Youhanna Ayoub (Syriac Orthodox Church), and Raad 
Shammaa, the head of the Christian Endowment.  During these 
meetings, we have sought to ascertain whether, in the opinion 
of Christian leaders, the GOI has taken sufficient steps to 
improve security as well as what actions we can take to 
assist. 
 
------------ 
GOI Response 
------------ 
 
5. (C) All of the leaders whom we met confirmed that the GOI 
has increased security around churches in Baghdad since July 
12.  Assyrian Patriach Addai told Poloff that the Christian 
community was pleased with the GOI's rapid response to the 
 
BAGHDAD 00001988  002 OF 003 
 
 
attacks by placing extra guards at churches and increasing 
patrols in predominantly Christian neighborhoods.  Monsignor 
Benjamin told the Charge that the increased presence of ISF 
at churches was a mixed blessing.  He said that a number of 
churches now have humvees parked at the entrances and that 
while this may deter some attacks, it may also increase the 
likelihood by giving terrorists an opportunity to attack two 
targets (Christians and the ISF) at the same time.  Benjamin 
and the other religious leaders also stated that some of the 
ISF guards placed at their churches were making a nuisance of 
themselves demanding that the churches provide them with food 
and shelter.  Christian Endowment Director Shammaa responded 
that the Endowment had made clear to the ISF that if they 
could not provide for themselves, then the churches would 
rather not have them around. 
 
6. (C) Bishop Wardouni confirmed to the Charge that the PM 
had met with Cardinal Delly on July 19.  Wardouni said that 
the PM had promised the Cardinal both greater security and 
additional GOI funding to repair and rebuild churches. 
Wardouni stated that he had heard the PM make similar 
promises in the past, but that he seemed more forceful this 
time and had told the Cardinal to liaise with his advisor for 
Christian Affairs, Georges Bakoos, to make sure that the 
actions taken were satisfactory.  Wardouni was clearly 
displeased with the PM and wondered why he had waited a week 
to make an official statement.  (Note: The government's 
spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh condemned the attacks on July 13 
along with Iraqi Vice President Abdel Mahdi.  End note.) 
 
7. (C) In a separate conversation with Poloff, but before the 
meeting between the PM and the Cardinal took place, Bakoos 
questioned why church leaders never informed him of the 
requests that they had made to the GOI so that he could 
follow up.  Bakoos relayed an argument that he had with 
Christian Endowment Director Shammaa over the provision of 
extra guards to churches.  Shammaa claimed that he had 
requested an additional 500 guards from the Council of 
Ministers three months prior to the attacks.  Bakoos asked 
Shammaa why he had not also sent the request to him at the 
Prime Minister's office so that he could follow up and stated 
that if Shammaa and other Christian leaders continued to make 
requests without informing him that it was their own fault 
when the requests went unanswered.  Poloff undertook to 
reiterate this message in future conversations with his 
Christian contacts. 
 
------------------- 
Wider Issues Remain 
------------------- 
 
8. (C) A common theme throughout the discussions with 
Christian leaders was their sense that the July 12 bombings 
were a symptom of wider issues that are plaguing their 
community.  Archbishop Matouka summed up the concerns of the 
Christian community as being a lack of security, employment, 
and respect from Iraqi Muslims.  In particular, the religious 
leaders outlined a long list of attacks that had occurred 
against their respective churches and clergy.  The Charge 
acknowledged that security is indeed a concern for the 
Christian community, but noted that the Sunni and Shia 
communities also suffer at the hands of terrorists and thus 
the attacks were not really against only Christians, but 
against Iraqis as a whole.  The Charge explained that despite 
the withdrawal of Coalition Forces from the cities, we 
continue to manage a robust training and equipment program 
that will increase the capabilities of the ISF.  He also 
promised to see whether a direct point of contact could be 
established within the ISF whom Christian leaders could call 
Qestablished within the ISF whom Christian leaders could call 
if they had particular security concerns. 
 
9. (C) With respect to employment, Shammaa complained 
bitterly that despite its substantial resources the Christian 
endowment was hamstrung in its efforts to assist the churches 
because of its dearth of employees and because Iraqi law 
prevented the endowment from making cash payments to churches 
directly (ref C).  Shammaa was not certain that the PM's 
promise to provide additional economic assistance to 
Christian churches would amount to much given these 
restrictions.  The Charge advised Shammaa and the other 
leaders to work directly with the Ministry of Finance to 
resolve the problem as this ministry was ultimately 
responsible for allowing the endowment to increase its 
payroll.  The Charge promised that we would raise the issue 
directly with Georges Bakoos as well as the Ministry of 
Finance through the Economic Section if Shammaa desired.  At 
the same time, he also outlined the economic assistance that 
USAID and the PRTs are providing throughout Iraq that may be 
of use to the Christian community. 
 
------------- 
A Ray of Hope 
------------- 
 
BAGHDAD 00001988  003 OF 003 
 
 
 
10. (C) Despite the difficult week that they have endured, 
Christian leaders were surprisingly upbeat in their 
assessment of their communities' resilience to the latest 
attacks.  Patriarch Addai told Poloff that he was pleasantly 
surprised when a class that his church conducts during the 
summer was almost fully attended the day after the bombings. 
Bishop Wardouni said that the morning Mass this past Sunday 
at his church, which had been the site of the car bomb that 
killed four persons, was full although he did notice a slight 
drop in attendance at the evening Mass.  Monsignors Benjamin 
and Qutaymi said that attendance was down slightly at their 
respective churches as well, but that the decline was not as 
dramatic as it might have been.  Benjamin also stated that 
"people are more confident now" than they had been in the 
past.  Even Archbishop Matouka admitted that the level of 
violence directed at the Christian church in 2009 was far 
lower than in the 2004-2007 timeframe. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
11. (C) The latest tragedy represented by the July 12 attacks 
on Christian churches has refocused GOI attention on the 
security of Iraq's Christian community.  The initial analysis 
of the attacks reveals that the security structure was in 
place to prevent them (i.e. guards were already at churches 
and the 11th Division of the ISF was contacted almost 
immediately by church leaders) but that it reacted either 
improperly (permitting a car to be parked in front of a 
church) or could not react fast enough (the coordinated 
attacks took place within two hours).  The GOI also seems to 
be taking the situation seriously through its deployment of 
additional ISF to churches and designation of a 
representative within the PM's office to liaise with the 
Christian community directly to ensure that they assistance 
they need is in fact received.  We will continue to monitor 
the situation to determine whether the GOI follows through on 
its commitments and look for ways that we might be able to 
assist.  End comment. 
FORD

 



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