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GA News: Iraqi Christian leader speaks from “severely wounded land”

SAN JOSE – “I come from a severely wounded land,” said Archbishop Avak Asadourian, the primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Iraq.

Asadourian, an ecumenical advisory delegate to the 218th General Assembly, offered greetings during the assembly’s evening session June 25.

He said the U.S. government did not grant a visa to a Presbyterian leader from Iraq invited to come to San Jose. And for the small minority of Christians in Iraq, life is extremely difficult.

Many Iraqi Christians are endangered, Asadourian said – from his own Armenian community, 34 have been killed and 40 others kidnapped for ransom.

“As Iraqis, we live under the shadow of death day in and day out. And thus the dictum of the Lord to pick up our crosses and follow him has become an existential reality for the Christians of Iraq.”

The conditions of daily life are hard. “We get electricity only two hours a day.” When the United States invaded in 2003, American leaders said the conflict would “improve the lot of the Iraqi people. This has not been the case,” Asadourian said.

He spoke of polluted water, of the “brain drain” of professionals, engineers and professors leaving the country – perhaps never to return. “I wonder who’s going to rebuild and reconstruct Iraqi,” Asadourian said.

“The solution is not to Iraqis or Christians out of Iraq,” he said, but to bring in security so citizens can heal their wounds and build a better future, “with God’s help and blessing.”

He described Christianity as “indigenous to Iraq” since the time of the apostles, but churches and individual Christians now are in peril in the region.

“Your prayer sustains us and gives us strength,” Asadourian told the American Presbyterians, but “we also need your tangible support.” He said: “I am here to witness to the plight of the Christians (in Iraq) and to be their voice in this General Assembly.”

As Asadourian finished speaking, the commissioners rose in standing ovation.