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Iraq’s Christians: United Nations

Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad speaks during an interview in Baghdad on 1 November. The cardinal was responding to the 31 October deadly attack at a Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad. (Photo: CNS/Mohammed Ameen, Reuters) 

03 Nov 2010 – by Catholic News Service

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) — The Oct. 31 attack on a Catholic cathedral in Baghdad that left 58 people dead is “another tragic incident of the continued intolerance, discrimination and violence directed at Christians,” said the Vatican’s representative in a Nov. 1 address at the United Nations.

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said the incident underscores the need to ensure that all religions and all believers have “the most basic right to religious freedom and worship.”

He was addressing the U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, cultural and humanitarian issues.

Archbishop Chullikatt’s statement did not elaborate on the siege by militants at the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, beyond noting that “our thoughts and prayers go to the victims of this attack and their families, some of whom I have known personally.”

The body of his remarks focused on the religious intolerance and discrimination and the rights of individuals. He cautioned against “the over-identification of racial or ethnic identity and religious belief,” which he said leads to people facing multiple forms of discrimination.

“This linking of race and religion reinforces the flawed and tragic notion that religious belief is inherently tied to one’s ethnic, national or racial background and thus prevents religious minorities within ethnic and racial groups from expressing and practicing their faith,” said Archbishop Chullikatt in an address that also touched on racism and xenophobia.

He warned that focusing on religious or ethnic profiling and stereotyping, or attacks on sacred books, religious sites or figures does not adequately address those problems as abuses of human rights and international law.

Focusing on religions “gives rise to instances where states have used the concept of defamation of religions as a justification for laws which prohibit the freedom of religion and interreligious dialogue and restrict the freedom of expression,” the archbishop said.

“While my delegation supports all efforts to protect believers from unjust hate speech and incitement to violence,” he continued, “we remain concerned that the use of the concept of defamation of religions to achieve these aims has proven counterproductive and, instead of protecting religious believers, it has served as a means for state-sponsored oppression of religious believers.”

Instead, he said the Vatican delegation supports a call for governments to move away from the concept of defamation of religions and to move toward “the legal concept of advocacy against racial or religious hatred that constitutes discrimination or violence” and address intolerance by fostering awareness of religious belief and mutual understanding.

Just as racial and ethnic discrimination occurs around the world, so also do many people around the world lack the freedom to pray in community, to make personal expressions of faith and to exercise their consciences in accord with their religious faith,” said Archbishop Chullikatt.

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