October 22, 2004
The Honorable Colin L. Powell
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C. Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I wish to express our alarm and deep concern about the continuing targeted and deliberate violence being perpetrated upon Iraqi Christians by extremist elements. We are grateful that no injuries or deaths occurred with the latest attacks against five Christian churches. However, these attacks and other recent ones in August and since then against Christian families and communities are horrific and should not be tolerated.
The recent attacks are the latest in a series of violent efforts to deny religious freedom and to foment religious hostility among religious and ethnic communities in Iraq. These attacks represent a dangerous and growing trend of intolerance that is further destabilizing Iraq and could jeopardize the democratic freedom Iraqis want and deserve. We recognize that violence in Iraq is endemic and that other religious and ethnic communities, including Sunni and Shia, are also the subjects of violent attacks. However, the Christian community collectively is small and easily targeted for violent attacks. In these dire circumstances, the Christian community is under growing distress and a disproportionate number are leaving Iraq as refugees.
We urge the United States government and military to make every effort to preserve religious freedom and peace and to provide protection from further attacks by extremists and others.
The Catholic Church in the United States pledges its solidarity and support to the Christian community as well as to all Iraqis who seek a more democratic and peaceful Iraq. Religious freedom and religious harmony are absolutely necessary for a stable Iraq.
With prayerful best wishes, I am
Most Reverend John H. Ricard
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, International Policy Committee