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re: 'We have been vetoed from Living in the New Millennium'


Syrian-Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad Hits Embargo
"We Have Been Vetoed From Living in the New Millennium"

BAGHDAD, Iraq, JAN. 19, 2001 ( - Avvenire).-
Syrian-Catholic Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad remembers
when war hit Iraq.

"It was a terrible day," the archbishop recalled, in a trembling voice.
"People were asleep in Baghdad, when U.S. hunter-bombers began to
drop their death cargo mercilessly. I can still hear the children?s cries,
traumatized by the explosions, in the dark."

In the 10 years since the end of the Gulf War, an embargo has
reduced this once prosperous nation to poverty and left it isolated.
Archbishop Matoka, president of the Church?s Higher Catechetical
Commission,  which embraces all the country?s Catholic denominations,
assessed the situation in Iraq from his See in the eastern neighborhood of
Al-Karrada, where vestiges of the bombings are in evidence.

--Q: Excellency, does this mean that the people did not expect such action
following the ultimatum imposed on Iraq?

--Archbishop Matoka: What was not expected was the level of cruelty and
barbarism.  Let?s not forget that the bombings continued without
interruption for 42 days, reducing not only  the military but also the
civil structures to ashes. To behave this way with people is really inhuman.

--Q: So, they are still suffering the consequences of that war?

--Archbishop Matoka: Absolutely. Today the European states are alarmed over
the effects of the use of impoverished uranium in Bosnia?s war. However,
the first tests, as is beginning to be admitted everywhere, have been
carried out at our expense  -- dozens of tons, as they themselves have

If the effects of these cruel arms on those who have dropped them are
creating a  real psychosis in the West, imagine what the situation is of
those who were the object of them.

--Q: The Syrian-Catholics in Iraq number 50,000, just about one-tenth of
the country?s Christians. What are the main problems caused by the embargo?

--Archbishop Matoka: The problems are those of all Christians. In the first
place,  the embargo leads many of the faithful, especially youth, to do
everything possible  to emigrate from the country -- a veritable
hemorrhage, for a small community like ours,  which we are unable to stop.
Moreover, the economic situation of many families is unbearable. Ten years
ago the dinar, our currency, was worth $3. Now, we need 2,000 dinars to get

--Q: What is the Church doing?

--Archbishop Matoka: The Church gives help to needy families through
Caritas and  local charitable associations on one hand, and through the
donations of Iraqis and foreigners on the other. The aid consists primarily
of grants for surgical operations, distribution of medicines, and medical

--Q: You hoped the embargo would end during the Jubilee.

--Archbishop Matoka: I continue to hope that, in the end, the initiatives
of  men of good will will be successful. World public opinion increasingly
realizes the  dimensions of the tragedy caused by the embargo, which has
ended by being a  flagrant injustice against an entire people.

--Q: It seems something is moving, however.

--Archbishop Matoka: Yes, but very slowly. Iraq, known as the cradle of
civilization, is today far behind the rest of the world and no longer has
access to modern technology.  You must also have experienced this
personally, because it takes three days to be able to telephone Baghdad.

It would seem that we have been vetoed from living in the new millennium,
in the era of progress and technology. For this reason also, we believe
that only with an end  to the embargo will our country and our Church be
able to look to the future with confidence.


  ZENIT Editorial Address
  C.P. 18356
00164 Rome - Italy
Copyright 2000
  (c) Innovative Media Inc.


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