Iraqi Christians Seeking for Peace on Easter

( [email protected] ) Apr 12, 2004 09:56 AM EDT

BAGHDAD – Christians in Iraq celebrated Easter hoping for end of violence in Iraq as they are noticing the rise of influence of Shiite Muslim fundamentalism.

"The bloodshed must stop," said Emmanuel Delly, during his Easter message to the congregation at the Church of the Holy Virgin in Baghdad’s chic Karrada district, the center of the capital’s Christian area.

Battles which started seven days ago between Iraqi insurgents and US troops in that town have killed more than 400 people and wounded 1,000, putting more Christians into fear and sorrow. Local churches are supplying the needs of people who have been suffered from the war.

"Our church collected money to buy medicines and supplies for the people living in the town, but we don't have the means to transport the aid," the church's parish priest, Father Butros Haddad said.

Faez Thomas, a 40-year-old electrician, also expressed his fear of future coming of Islamist government.

"The ascendancy of (radical Shiite cleric) Moqtada Sadr is very dangerous for everyone, Christians as well as Muslims," he said.

"Christians are leaving the country and the majority of them are thinking about emigrating," he said. "Don't forget, the Christian community in Iraq has only one desire: to live in peace".

"If an Islamic Republic emerges, the church must organize a mass departure of Christians," he said.

Noel Farman Sanaty, deputy editor of a Christian magazine, pointed out that historically, Muslims and Christians have shared good relationship.

"The current crisis is primarily being stirred up by foreigners. We must wait and see if the situation subsides or not," he said.

In his mind, Christians are fixing their hopes on June 30, when the ruling US-led coalition has promised to hand over sovereignty to Iraqis.

"We need to believe in miracles," he added.

According to AFP, the Chaldean Church is an eastern church linked to the Vatican, which numbers about 700,000 members in Iraq, with smaller communities in Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Lebanon, Syria the United States.