New York, October 20, 2008 -- National Council of Churches General Secretary Michael Kinnamon has welcomed a call by World Council of Churches General Secretary Samuel Kobia "to quell the violence" against the Christian minority in Iraq.
Kobia issued the plea to officials of the United Nations and the Iraqi government, seeking "swift action to quell the violence in Iraq and to thwart activities aimed at the expulsion of Christians and other minority populations."
"Americans have a special responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment for Christians and all Iraqi civilians," Kinnamon said. "I have no doubt that the coalition commanders are keenly aware of this, and I do not underestimate the complexity of their tasks. Even so, attacks on Christians in Mosul must not be allowed to continue."
In a personal letter to Kinnamon, Kobia said the WCC is organizing an official visit of ecumenical representatives to Mosul and Baghdad to express support and solidarity for Christians in the region. "I very much hope that one or more delegates from the National Council of Churches USA will be able to join us in this journey," Kobia wrote.
Kinnamon said NCC staff and board members look forward to discussing details with the WCC.
"We in the WCC have felt called to witness for peace and the defense of the rights of our brothers and sisters in Iraq," Kobia wrote. "It is a tragedy that the violence of recent years now threatens the very survival of a 2000-year-old Christian community. We are grateful to all who join us in this witness."
Since 28 September, attacks targeted at Christians in the northern city of Mosul have killed about 14 people and have led some 1,500 Christian families to flee their homes in the area.
"We have heard that people are being killed, houses bombed, thousands are fleeing their homes, and churches and church properties are being destroyed," Kobia said, expressing "anguish and great concern" about the "terrible acts of violence in Mosul during the past week."
The recent killings in Mosul, widely blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq, coincided with stepped-up lobbying efforts by Christians to ensure their representation in upcoming provincial elections in the primarily Muslim country.
In his letter to Kinnamon, Kobia expressed appreciation for "the firm and courageous stance taken by the U.S. churches to protest the war in Iraq, from its inception until now."
Kobia expressed confidence that the National Council of Churches USA "is using its good offices to protest the failure of coalition forces in Iraq to fulfill their responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to maintain the safety and security of Iraqi civilians, and particularly the rights of Christian citizens during the occupation of their country."
Kinnamon said, "We do protest this failure and we call on U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to pay special attention to the safety of Christians and other civilians in Mosul and throughout Iraq."
Maliki has pledged to protect Christians in the region and has sent 1,000 troops to Mosul to help keep the peace.
Kinnamon joined Kobia in urging the Christians of Iraq to remain in their homeland.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228, NCCnews@ncccusa.org