OTTAWA – The slaughter of 57 Catholics in a Baghdad Church is having an effect opposite to that intended by the perpetrators, says the Canadian head of The Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
The recent violence in Iraq, including the Oct. 31 siege of a church that ended in the deaths of 57, has brought calls for peace from Muslims and Christians, said Carl Hétu, national secretary of CNEWA.
"It has caused Muslims and Christians to speak with one voice."
Hétu said violence has dropped dramatically in Iraq in recent months, leaving the extremists responsible for earlier violence with a sense of desperation. "To re-situate themselves, terrorist groups needed to do a grand coup before they become obsolete."
"Those people decided to murder innocent Catholics hoping to revive violence," he said. "But the Holy Spirit works in funny ways; it's the opposite that's happening."
"People are tired of the violence," he said. "They want peace."
Within 24 hours of the assault on the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad by a group with suspected ties to al-Qaida, thousands of Muslims and Christians were demonstrating in cities like Mosul, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, such as Lebanon.
Both Sunni and Shiite Muslim leaders spoke of the need to end the violence, he said. "You don't often hear that message that often."
But without a solution to the political stalemate in Iraq more violence is likely, Hétu said.
The new main powers are almost equal and need a coalition to govern, he said.
"It's clear that in this instability that Christians won't get the protection that a stable government can give. Each faction will protect its own," he said.
"There won't be much left for the Iraqi Christians that are in the crossfire," he said.
Hétu called on the Canadian government to offer support for a diplomatic solution to the stalemate.
"Our own government has a responsibility to assist in any way, diplomatically, if Iraq wants some diplomatic efforts to form a coalition."
He also urged Canadian Catholics, to help those suffering in Iraq after the seven-year civil war that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein.
"Catholics have a responsibility to accompany and be in solidarity with the Christians of Iraq," he said.