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Foreign intervention won’t help Iraq, says Baghdad archbishop

Archbishop Jean Sleiman (CNS)

THE international community should not intervene in the struggle against Isis extremists in Iraq, according to the Archbishop of Baghdad.

Archbishop Jean Sleiman told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that the priority should be for Iraqi leaders to “work together” to overcome the crisis.

He also said that establishing a political “consensus” in Iraq is critical to stopping Isis, who have pulled off a series of military take-overs of key northern cities including Mosul, the country’s second city.

Speaking from Baghdad, the archbishop described how many people were trying to leave the city, fearing an onslaught from Isis amid reports that the militants have pressed on towards the capital.

Archbishop Sleiman, who became Latin-rite Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad in 2001, said: “Isis needs to be stopped … and it needs the Iraqi leaders to work together to stop it. That is more important than getting the international community involved.

“In responding to this crisis, the international community should think of the common good, not their own interests. They should think of peace.

“I hope Iraqi leaders will find a consensus about how to tackle this situation or there will be a tragic outcome.”

The archbishop added: “I don’t know what will happen next. Of course the military will resist Isis but who knows if it will be strong enough. It is a possibility that the terrorists will succeed but we don’t know.”

Stating that there was “a great deal of confusion” in the capital, he said numbers were down at Sunday Mass (June 15) which he celebrated at Baghdad’s St Joseph’s Cathedral, near to where he lives.

The archbishop, whose Latin-rite Catholic community is much smaller than Iraq’s largest Catholic community, the Chaldeans, said: “People I met after Mass were stressed by the situation.”

He said that, with all roads north of Baghdad closed, and others to the south full of checkpoints and other obstacles, people’s only option for leaving the city was by one of the seven flights that depart from the capital every day. “What all this means is that you can only leave Baghdad if you have got money to pay for a flight. In any case, flights are booked until the end of the month,” he added.

Asked if he was considering leaving the city, the Archbishop said: “I don’t know if I should stay or go. I leave this problem to my angels.”

Archbishop Sleiman, a Carmelite originally from Lebanon, appealed for prayer for Iraq, saying: “We should all pray for peace and solidarity and for a solution to the crisis.”


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