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Cablegate: Babil's Christian Families Are Looking for a Savior

VZCZCXRO9499
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHIHL #0068 1990813
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 170813Z JUL 08
FM REO HILLAH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1101
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHIHL/REO HILLAH 1167

UNCLAS HILLAH 000068

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR IZ IR
SUBJECT: BABIL'S CHRISTIAN FAMILIES ARE LOOKING FOR A SAVIOR

1. (U) This is a PRT Babil cable.

2. (SBU) Babil's Christian families are among the dwindling
religious minorities in south central Iraq. Given the
challenges they described during their July 7 meeting with Babil
PRT at the Regional Embassy Office in al-Hillah, it is not
surprising that other religious minorities reportedly residing
in the province, (including Jews, Baha'i, and Sabian Mandaeanan)
are unwilling to expose themselves to the PRT or the
Muslim-dominated public.

3. (SBU) Babil's Christian community is diminutive and
shrinking. There are approximately 55 families in the region
(only 35 of those families in Babil province). That is a 78
percent decrease from the 250 families that lived in the region
in 2003. The Christians reported that while public harassment
and sectarian violence against them is rare, when applying to
jobs or universities, they are frequently not accepted due to
their lack of affiliation with a major religious political party
such as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) or
Hizb'al-Dawa.

4. (SBU) The Christians are primarily concerned with the dearth
of employment opportunities commensurate with their levels of
education. According to them, the lack of employment leads to
the significant emigration of religious minorities. They are
also worried over the lack of support from the Mon-Muslim
Endowments Office in Baghdad, which provides operating funds to
churches in Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra, but apparently neglects
the church in Hillah. Currently, the endowment provides no
financial support. Thus the church's electric bills have gone
unpaid for nearly five years and there are no funds for the
maintenance, renovation or improvement of the church. The only
support received from the non-Muslim Endowments Office is a
transient priest to conduct mass once every two to three months,
if the Babil Christians can raise enough money to pay his way.
The Christians currently rely on the local Shia endowment, which
has provided four engineers to assess the church and even
allocated money for renovations, however, none of the proposed
renovations or improvements have come to fruition.

5. (SBU) Physical threats, although reportedly rare, come in
various forms. Some members of their community allege that they
were attacked and falsely accused by members of the Office of
the Martyr Sadr of selling liquor. Another isolated incident
occurred three years ago when a threat was made against the
church and a Christian girl was kidnapped and forced to convert
to Islam. The Christian women are reportedly so affected by the
discrimination that they feel they must wear head scarves in
public as a precautionary measure. Additionally, both men and
women feel compelled to avoid publicly displaying any
affiliation with Christianity, such as wearing a cross or
crucifix pendant.

YANAWAY

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