"The flight of Christians from Iraq is a sign of the failure of policies that were purported to bring stability and peace to Iraq and even the region," said the WCC, which opposed the US-led military action that brought down Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"Intolerance between social groups has grown markedly as an outcome of the conflict there," the Geneva-based church grouping said in a statement issued on 1 October after a meeting in Armenia of its executive committee. "Although Christians represent only four percent of Iraq's population, they make up 40 percent of its refugees," the church grouping stated.

The WCC praised Muslim clerics who are using their influence to contain violence in Iraq, and said joint Christian-Muslim advocacy outside Iraq for tolerance would send a signal to those of all faiths inside the country.

"The continuing presence of Christians in Iraq is a witness to the ethnic, cultural and religious diversity that are an essential part of Middle East," the WCC said, noting that members of all religious communities in Iraq have been displaced or have fled the country.

"The fate of Christians must not be seen in isolation from the fate of Muslims, or of other minorities such as the Yazidees and Mandeans, or used to worsen relations with Muslims or other groups," said the WCC, which gathers 347 churches, predominately Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox.

In a separate statement the church grouping warned against settling the dispute of Iran's nuclear programme by force.

"This international church position against attacking Iran seeks protection for all the populations involved, including the US and Israeli publics," the WCC stated. "Years of unilateralist military incursions in the Middle East have compromised human security and national well-being across the region and left many people vulnerable."

source: ENI news