Members of the Assyrian Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Baghdad, Iraq, must walk around a large gray pool of undrained sewage to reach their sanctuary each time they worship God.The raw sewage is not merely a smelly nuisance but a deadly health hazard. Sewage seeps into the water supply throughout the city, spreading disease and death among Baghdad's 5 million residents.Ten years ago, the United Nations placed stringent economic sanctions on Iraq for not disclosing its plans to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear and biological arms. Iraq's government, under the military dictator Saddam Hussein, again refused to allow entry of international weapons inspectors in August. That refusal will undoubtedly keep the sanctions in place, although countless Western products are smuggled into the country.
Mennonites and Quakers joined human-rights activists in New York in early August, marking the tenth anniversary of the sanctions by lobbying the United Nations Security Council to drop them."The sanctions have contributed in a major way to persistent life-threatening conditions in this country," they said in a letter to the council.Few question that the sanctions mostly harm Iraq's poor and marginalized groups, including Christians. Iraq has 260 churches, according to World Churches Handbook. About 620,000 Christians live in the nation. Chaldean Catholics are the single largest Christian subgroup. Muslims are about 95 percent of Iraq's 22 million people.The sanctions ban the import of an estimated 2,000 items, including chlorine, which is essential in curbing the spread of waterborne diseases. Despite the many problems aggravated by the sanctions, Christian churches continue to function ...1