From despair to hope?” “

There are some 70,000 Iraqi Christians in Europe. They are willing to contribute to the reconstruction of their country" "

According to the estimates of the UN High Commission for Refugees, at least 900,000 Iraqis have left their country over the last twenty years. In 2002 over 51,000 Iraqis made asylum applications. In Europe, the quarterly average of applications submitted by Iraqi citizens rose from 11,400 in 2001 to 12,000 in the first quarter of 2002. A month after the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein, the situation of refugees and displaced persons remains critical. The Churches of the Mediterranean are asking the governments to increase the funds allocated to the refugees spawned by the war in Iraq. The proposal emerged from the annual meeting of the “Amman Process” – a network that promotes dialogue between the churches of the Mediterranean on issues linked to migration and refugees -, held in recent days in Beirut (Lebanon). “We are deeply concerned – says a communiqué issued by the Conference of European Churches ( KEK) – by the limited capacity of the UN High Commission for Refugees to respond to their needs and that of the refugees on the frontiers of the neighbouring countries such as Jordan”. During the meeting it was urged that “the United Nations play a decisive role in reconstruction, given that many relief organizations have refused to cooperate with the military forces in Iraq”. An issue that repeatedly raised its head at Beirut was the dialogue between Christians and Moslems: “The dialogue between religions – said Riad Jarjour, general secretary of the Council of the Churches of the Middle East (CCME) – is important if we are to overcome false stereotypes and prejudices. Interreligious dialogue and cooperation could play an important role in situations of conflict, as in the case of Sudan and other countries. It will be important to step up exchanges between Europe and the Middle East on this question, given that many Christian and Moslem immigrants in Europe come from our region”. “There are some 70,000 Iraqi Christians in Europe. All of them of Chaldaean rite. Up to ten years ago there were only some 3,000 of them. But the embargo and the conflicts in the area have forced them to flee Iraq, leaving behind them their home, members of their family and all prospects for a future in the country”. So says Father Philip Najim, himself from Iraq, and in charge of the Chaldaean Patriarchate for Europe. “The Iraqi people are not poor, on the contrary they are rich in resources and skills. That is testified by these emigrants today, in large part resident in Great Britain, Scandinavia, Holland, France and Germany. They are doctors, engineers, shopkeepers, businessmen, headmasters and retain a strong link with their homeland”. And now that with the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein efforts are beginning to materially reconstruct Iraq, “they are willing to contribute to the reconstruction of the country. They have long been involved in sending back aid”. According to Najim, “diversity in ethnic group or religion must be not an obstacle to, but an asset for the nascent democracy”. Meanwhile, these Iraqi immigrants are continuing their life in Europe where “they still await to be recognized and appreciated also in terms of their religion”. The secularization of the old continent prevents them from fully expressing their religious dimension. Nonetheless, concludes Father Najim, “they bear witness to their strong faith rooted in Christianity. The European Catholic bishops who have Chaldaean communities in their dioceses do not fail to emphasize the example, the ecumenical commitment and the vitality of this migrant Church”. Presentation of bids European Fund for Refugees: tender to present bids for 2003; deadline: 13 June. For further information, contact: External frontiers, visas, asylum, immigration. Administrative cooperation, annual programme to present bids for 2003 – ARGO programme. Deadline for the presentation of bids: 27 June 2003. For further information, contact: fax 00322.2998053, email:,

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