11/11/2008, 00.00
IRAQ
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Iraqi Christians are not second-class citizens, says Mgr Warduni

The patriarch’s vicar slams the “marginalisation of the Christian community” and the “violation of rights” guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution. Parliament pledges a census for the population and a new law that would take into account the need for minority representation.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Mgr Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, expressed regret and concern after a new electoral law was sanctioned by Iraq’s Presidency Council. Under the rules adopted by parliament on 3 November and signed into law by President Jalal Talabani last Saturday the Christian minority gets three seats and Yezidis, Shabak and Sabians get one. They will apply to upcoming provincial elections The United Nations had recommended a higher number.

“The government had promised that it would put art. 50 back into the election law (which guaranteed 15 seats to minorities, 13 for Christians, out of 440); instead parliament adopted the law without any change,” Monsignor Warduni complained.

Christian leaders were preparing a “press released to express their dissent” with it when we got “the news that the Presidency Council had sanctioned the law. This decision surprised and pained us.”

The bishop said that the current law, according to government and President Talabani, would be used “only to renew provincial councils.” After that “a census of the population will be carried out to determine new quotas.”

However the prelate said he “did not believe change would come,” or “greater minority protection”, sometimes that is always mentioned but never implemented.

“It is meaningless to deny representation today whilst pledging equality for later,” he said. For the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad this is all “a political game”.

He also slammed the United Nations and the international community for their indifference on the matter. In his view they “ought to take a stronger position when it comes to minority rights and the protection of the Christian community.”

The future is “bleak” for there is “no peace, security or equal rights,” he said

Yet he said he will not let the matter drop but will continue “to raise his voice to push the Christian case” on constitutional matters.

“It is not about fighting a war because we are for peace,” he said, “but we cannot accept marginalisation. We are not second-class citizens; we are like everybody else with equal rights and equal duties and want to play our part in rebuilding our beloved homeland.” (DS)

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