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WikiLeaks: 2009-12-07: 09BAGHDAD3154: Compensation Finalized to Repair Heart of Iraq's Christian Community

by WikiLeaks. 09BAGHDAD3154: December 07, 2009.

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 10:09 AM UT


Viewing cable 09BAGHDAD3154, COMPENSATION FINALIZED TO REPAIR "HEART" OF IRAQ'S

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09BAGHDAD3154 2009-12-07 12:47 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO9358
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #3154/01 3411247
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 071247Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5649
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 003154 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2019 
TAGS: KIRF SOCI IZ
SUBJECT: COMPENSATION FINALIZED TO REPAIR "HEART" OF IRAQ'S 
CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY 
 
REF: 2008 BAGHDAD 2326 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Yuri Kim for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
. 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY: On November 20, a compensation agreement in 
the amount of USD $981,405 was finalized between MNF-I and 
the Chaldean Church of Iraq for rents incurred from the use 
of and damages caused to the Babel College seminary that 
Coalition forces occupied from March 1, 2007 until November 
5, 2008 as part of efforts to bring stability to Baghdad. 
Payment of the agreed sum in the coming days, from U.S. Army 
funds, will bring to a close compensation claims made by the 
Chaldean Church for Coalition Forces' use of the facility, 
which had been a top priority of church leaders in their 
meetings with the Embassy.  Church leaders tell us that the 
money will be used to repair the seminary -- which they view 
as the "heart" of Iraq's Christian community because of its 
role in training new priests from all rites -- so that it can 
be reopened in time for the 2010 fall semester.  END SUMMARY. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
COMPENSATING THE CHURCH FOR USE OF BABEL COLLEGE 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
2. (C) Within Iraq, Babel College is the only seminary 
institution that is accredited to train new priests 
domestically to service the country's Christian community. 
In January 2007, as a result of the deteriorating security 
situation in Baghdad, Church officials decided to close the 
Babel College facility and relocate it on temporary basis to 
the Ankawa area of Erbil in the Kurdistan Region.  Since 
2003, Babel College has averaged 15 graduates a year although 
only 10 were graduated last year.  As the college shut its 
doors to students, the First Brigade Combat team of the 
Fourth Infantry Division (1st BCT/4th ID) took up residence 
at the facility on March 1, 2007 in order to provide security 
to the Haidar-Mekaniks neighborhood of Baghdad.  When the 
Brigade pulled out in November 2008 in response to an 
improved security situation, church leaders claimed that 
Babel College had suffered damage as a result of the military 
presence and that the facility was unusable.  The Church also 
claimed that Coalition Forces had failed to prevent looting 
and vandalism of adjacent church properties. 
 
3. (C) In order to bring the matter to an amicable 
conclusion, 1st BCT/4th ID recommended to MND-B and higher 
headquarters to sign a lease to pay "rent" for the 1st 
BCT/4th ID's use of the property from March 1, 2007 until 
November 5, 2008 as well as provide money for structural 
damage and items damaged during the use of the property and 
facilities.  The total amount provided as part of the 
agreement was USD $981,405, including USD $282,000 for use 
and the balance for damages.  Due to the large sum and the 
multiple federal fiscal years funding required, the process 
took longer and needed special approval from Army Central 
Command.  After a year of waiting, the legal documents for 
the lease were finally signed on November 18 with the Dean of 
Babel College, Bishop Jacques Isaac.  The lease agreement 
also represented the last of five compensation claims agreed 
to between Coalition Forces and the Church for facilities in 
the vicinity of Babel College.  The previous four claims were 
settled relatively quickly in 2008 for a total of USD 
$95,000, and the money was used to repair the church of St. 
Peter's/St. Paul's adjacent to Babel College in the 
Haidar-Mekaniks neighborhood. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
REPAIRING THE HEART OF IRAQ'S CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
Q-------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
4. (C) At the signing, Bishop Isaac stated that the money 
would be used to restore the College building, acquire new 
furniture, and rebuild the library which houses a number of 
ancient manuscripts maintained by the Chaldean Church. 
During a prior engagement, Isaac told Poloff that Babel 
College represented the "heart" of Iraq's Christian community 
given its role in training priests from all of the various 
rites of the Catholic Church present in the country.  Papal 
Nuncio Francis Chullikat stated that he was very pleased by 
the finalization of the compensation agreement and expressed 
hope that the repairs could be made in order to have the 
facility operational for the fall semester in 2010. 

5. (C) COMMENT: The issue of compensation for Babel College 
was one of the Chaldean Church's primary concerns in its 
dealings with the Embassy over the past year, with senior 
church leaders raising the issue at every opportunity.  The 
finalization of the compensation agreement thus represents a 
major accomplishment for the Embassy and MNF-I in its 
dealings with Iraq's Christian community.  Over the 
long-term, the repair and reopening of the Babel College 
seminary will be another step in improving the conditions for  
the Christian community in Iraq.  END COMMENT. 

BAGHDAD 00003154  002 OF 002 

HILL

 



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