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Vatican demands more protection for Iraq Christians
VATICAN CITY |
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican Tuesday called on the Iraqi government and human rights groups to do more to protect Christians in Mosul, where half of the minority community has fled after attacks and threats.
In an interview with Reuters, Pope Benedict's spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican was asking itself if there was "insufficient willingness" on the part of Iraqi authorities to protect Christians.
"We are extremely worried about what we are hearing from Iraq," Lombardi said
Last Friday in Geneva, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said about half of the Christians in Iraq's northern town of Mosul, nearly 10,000 people, had fled in the period of about a week.
"The situation in Mosul is dramatic. The victims are Christians and many thousands of people are fleeing precisely because they are subjected not only to the fear of periodic attacks but a systematic campaign of threats," Lombardi said.
"This is extremely worrying and we ask ourselves if these people are sufficiently protected by the authorities or if the authorities are not able to protect them or if there is scarce willingness to protect them," he said.
Last week, Iraq's government pledged to send senior officials to the north to tackle the violence. In Geneva, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said it was concerned about mass displacement in the Mosul area.
A copy of a flyer left in a Christian home in Mosul warned the family to "leave your house and the area within 24 hours otherwise you will be justly punished and be killed as our Islamic religion dictates be done to those like you who venerate the cross."
The flyer, made available to Reuters by diplomatic sources, includes verses of the Koran, a specific street address in Mosul and was signed by a group calling itself the "Consultative Council of Combatants in Iraq."
Lombardi said the world needed to know what was happening in Mosul. He thanked the UNHCR for bringing attention to the problem, but added:
"Certainly the government has its responsibility but we appeal to all those who can influence the situation -- human rights organizations and the international community -- so that everyone around the world is made aware that what is happening in Iraq is a very grave violation of fundamental human rights."
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