The leader of Iraq’s biggest Christian group, Archbishop Emmanuel Delly, said Christians had not been attacked because of their beliefs.

“We have not been exposed to any kind of religious oppression so far,” said Delly, the acting Patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic church.

“We are living together with our Muslim brothers, whether Shia or Sunnis, and we haven’t registered any incidents against Christians since the fall of the former regime.”

The official government line under Hussein was for religious tolerance. Intimidation was uncommon for Christians, who comprise about 700,000 or three percent of Iraq’s population.

Iraqi Christians feared Hussein’s fall would expose them to attacks by those who link Christianity to the West.

Unity

Delly said he had been holding meetings with Muslim leaders.

“We have come to the conclusion that all of us should live peacefully in a united Iraq and we all should believe that religion is for God and the homeland for all.”

In the run-up to war worshippers
flocked to churches

However, Iraqis of all religions were suffering from the US-led occupation’s failure to bring security and provide basic services, said Delly.

“The occupying forces have so far failed to win the hearts of Iraqis. They failed to restore power,” he said. “They failed to maintain security. They have made thousands of Iraqis unemployed.”

The acting Patriarch also criticised the make-up of the US-appointed Governing Council and cabinet, where seats were appointed along sectarian and ethnic lines.

“We have told them (occupying authorities) that the Governing Council and the ministers shouldn’t be chosen on the basis of religion but rather on the basis of qualification,” he said.