Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited the pope on Friday, at the pontiff’s summer residence, and invited the Pope Benedict to visit Iraq. Maliki said that he believed that a visit by the pontiff could help in the process of bringing peace and reconciliation to the Iraqi people. He also asked the Pope to encourage Christians who left the country to come back and be part of the social structure of Iraq again.
In response, Pope Benedict spoke to Maliki about his concerns about the safety of Christians in Iraq and indicated that the Christian Community there needed better security and protection. He reminded the Prime Minister that Christian churches and leaders in Iraq have been repeatedly targeted by Islamic militants and that the thousands of Christians which left Iraq, did so because of the continual persecution. However, Maliki denied that the Christian community was being persecuted.
Response: Several million Christians have lived in Iraq for a couple of millennia. However, by all reports, since 2003, the Christian community there has been under a great deal of persecution and that led to 100s of thousands leaving the country. I can’t imagine them wanting to return until the conditions are actually improved. My question is this–if PM Maliki denies that there is even any persecution going on, then how can he ever make the necessary improvements in security that would encourage Christians to return?