MOSUL (Combined Sources)–The attack on Mosul’s Chaldean and Armenian churches on Tuesday did not go unnoticed by religious heads. Condemning the violence–Catholicos Karekin II of the Holy See of Etchimiadzin–warned of a "danger to the centuries-old co-existence of the Christian and Islamic peoples" of Iraq–and urged Iraqi spiritual leaders to prevent the continuing unrest in the country from degenerating into a religious conflict.
Karekin II’s alarm was echoed by Pope John Paul II on Wednesday. "I express my spiritual closeness to the faithful–shocked by the attacks," John Paul said–speaking from his apartment window above St. Peter’s Square on the Roman Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The harshest condemnation of Tuesday’s attacks–however–came from Aram I–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia. "One cannot understand fully and accurately the history of the Middle East–with its upheavals and tensions–challenges and achievemen’s–without the Christian-Moslem co-existence which remains a vital dimension of the history of this region," His Holiness noted. "In fact–Christianity and Islam have made a significant contribution to the history of the Middle East–particularly in the areas of culture–science–civilization and politics.
"The centuries old Christian Moslem co-existence has developed mutual understanding and trust among the peoples of the region. That is why I often remind our Western friends that Christian-Moslem dialogue in the Middle East is not an intellectual notion–but an existential reality and an integral part of the daily life of the people. And–in view of the growing concern for Christian-Moslem dialogue–I often remind our friends in the West that Christian-Moslem dialogue in our part of the world is deeply rooted in our common history. For centuries–not only Christians and Moslems have talked to each other–but they have lived together–worked together–dreamed and struggled together and have sustained their life by common moral and human values," said Aram I.
Referring specifically to the attacks–the Catholicos stated: "I cannot understand and accept these bombings of churches in Iraq. How such a thing happens between followers of two religions who have lived together for centuries as one community and as good neighbors. I cannot understand such an attitude towards Christians who have been inseparable part of the Middle Eastern society and have played a major role in all aspects of the society life. I consider these bombings serious attempts aimed at endangering the Christian-Moslem co-existence–undermining the importance of common values and aspirations which have sustained the life of the Middle Eastern societies–and questioning the importance of human rights and religious liberties. Such attempts also underestimate the unity of the Arab world and the credibility of the Arab cause. Therefore–I urge and appeal to the leaderships of Christian and Moslem communities in Iraq to come together and to re-affirm the Christian-Moslem co-existence as well as their national unity."
Numbering 1.2 million–the country’s Christian community has been subject to several attacks since the onset of violence within the country. On November 8–at least three people were killed and 45 wounded when two suspected car bombs exploded within minutes of each other outside two churches in southern Baghdad. In a coordinated assault on August 1–six car bombs killed 10 people and injured 50 others outside churches in Baghdad and Mosul.