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Iraqi bishop visiting Brisbane calls for fighting between ‘big powers’ to stop

Peaceful plea: Syriac Catholic Archbishop Youhanna Boutros Moshe of Mosul standing outside St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane on January 8, just hours after Iran hurled missiles at US military bases stationed in Iraq. He has pleaded with the two fighting countries to leave the Iraqi people alone. Photo: Emilie Ng

MOSUL’S leader of Syriac Catholics has asked “the big powers” in the United States and Iran to let the Iraqi people live in dignity, as tensions escalate over the combating countries.

Archbishop Youhanna Boutros Moshe is leader of the Syriac Catholic Archeparchy of Mosul, in northern Iraq, located about 90km from the Erbil US military base that was struck by missiles reportedly fired by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

The military base in Erbil was one of two strikes by Iran, launched in “revenge” for the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani by a US drone strike near Baghdad airport on January 3.

During a pastoral visit to meet refugees who had fled Iraq to live in Brisbane since 2014, Archbishop Moshe told The Catholic Leader the Iraqi people deserved to live in dignity.

“We do not want Iraqis to be the playground for fighting of these big powers,” the archbishop said.

“It’s enough, it’s enough, it’s enough of all this.

“Let them leave us alone and live our own lives in dignity.”

In his first public address following the attacks, US president Donald Trump confirmed there were no casualties and only minimal damage sustained at the military bases.

“Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world,” Mr Trump said.

The US president called Iran “the leading sponsor of terrorism” and vowed their nuclear weapons schemes would not become a reality under the Trump administration.

On behalf of the US he offered peace to the people and leaders of Iraq.

“We want you to have a future and a great future, one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home and harmony with the nations of the world,” Mr Trump said.

Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil warned in a statement that tensions must not escalate.

“Iraq has been suffering from proxy wars for decades; they have torn our country apart,” Archbishop Warda said.

Iraqi Catholics suffered enormous displacement when the Islamic State took over the communities of Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, in Iraq’s north.

When the barbaric extremists were defeated in 2017, the remaining Christians sought to rebuild their homes.

Archbishop Warda said while this showed the courage of the Iraqi people, the tensions between Iran and the US could break the fragile nature of these communities.

“The current tensions are threatening the serious fragility of the communities, which are tired of war and the tragic consequences of it,” he said.

“They have continually suffered far too much and can no longer face an unknown future.

“They need the certainty, reassurance, hope and the belief that Iraq can be a peaceful country to live in rather than being victims and endless collateral damage.”

Both the Syriac archbishop and Chaldean prelate are now calling on help from the global community, praying the leaders of the two opposing countries will stand down from the conflict.

“We hope in the grace of God and also good people and the big heart in the world will always look after us,” Archbishop Moshe said in Brisbane.

“Many of them are coming to us and expressing their hope and their help and we are very thankful to them.”

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