Archbishop Warda: Iraq’s Christian History “Wiped From Collective Memory”

Archbishop Bashar Warda of Northern Iraq

In an address in Ireland for the 2011 report by Aid to the Church in Need on Christian persecution, Archbishop Bashar Warda of northern Iraq did not mince words about the plight of Christians and other non-Muslims  in his country. Christians in Iraq face “near genocide” due only to their non-Muslim status as the Iraqi government muddies the waters of jurisprudence.

What we Iraqis are suffering is a crisis in cultural change. We are living in a region which cannot decide if it is for democracy or for Islamic law. It cannot decide if it is for the rights of human beings to live in freedom in all its exciting and challenging forms, or if it is for the control of the spirit and the minds of its people.

Since 2003, roughly a million Iraqi Christians have either fled their native homeland or been massacred. The damage wrought by Islamists has also taken its toll on Christian buildings dedicated to serving and uplifting the downtrodden.

Now I would like to talk to you about the systematic bombing campaign of Iraqi churches. The first Iraqi church was bombed in June, 2004 in Mosul. Following that event, successive campaigns have occurred and a total of 66 churches have been attacked or bombed; 41 in Baghdad, 19 in Mosul, 5 in Kirkuk and 1 in Ramadi. In addition, 2 convents, 1 monastery and a church orphanage was bombed.

While Islamists have insisted on blowing up, killing, or otherwise suppressing everything and everyone identified as Christian in Iraq, the Church there has been seeking to build. In January, it was announced that the Church, with the assistance of Aid to the Church in Need, would minister to the Christian community in northern Iraq, the area Christians are fleeing to, by building a university and a hospital.

Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said both schemes would provide jobs, training and other opportunities for thousands of Christians flooding into the relative security of Kurdistan, away from the religious violence, especially in Baghdad and Mosul.

Speaking after a committee of faithful and clergy met to advance the schemes, Archbishop Warda said: “The plans we have been developing over the past few months are symbols of hope for the Christian presence in our country.”

Christians defend life, education, employment, and religious freedom while Islamists seek only to destroy them. This is an all too familiar theme that has not been missed by Cardinal O’Brien of Britain.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien has said he believes persecution of Christians is growing around the world because of a desire to ‘conquer’ Christianity.

Unfortunately, not all the bishops have learned about Islamic supremacism. Let’s take a look at what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website has been saying about Islam recently.

The most recent press release comes from the Mid-Atlantic Catholic-Muslim Dialogue in May and reports on a meeting between Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore and the President of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Dr. Talat Sultan. ICNA is on the record supporting….wait for it…violent jihad. You can learn more by reading the many articles about ICNA from the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Dialogue is one thing. Making joint press releases with extremists is quite another thing indeed. Considering that the heads of three U.S. Catholic Bishops’ committees joined with Islamic extremists in an interfaith statement about the Ground Zero mosque and “anti-Muslim prejudice” back in September, we can only wonder where the American bishops get their information about Islam. Two weeks prior to that statement, I wrote What Vatican II Did and Did Not Say about Muslims, Christians and Jews. I’ve yet to see any rebuttal by any Catholic Islamapologist, bishop or otherwise.

The Christians of Pakistan and Arab nations wait for international acknowledgment of their sufferings under Islam. It’s an acknowledgment that will never come as long as their brothers and sisters in pews around the world remain silent. There are things that we can do to help, like giving generously to Aid to the Church in Need so that the plans for the hospital and university can move forward and that other persecuted Christians in the world can have support in their efforts to simply exist as Christians. We must also pray mightily for those who are suffering. I can assure you that I have heard from many persecuted Christians in the world and they ask for only two things from the West: (1) Prayer and (2) Public acknowledgment of their plight.

God of Power and of Mercy

Bless those who suffer in your name: May they be comforted by your hand.

Bless your Church: May it welcome those who seek refuge.

Bless your young leaders: May they grow in number and in faith.

We pray for the day when all people, in every land, can worship you in peace and with dignity.


10 Responses to Archbishop Warda: Iraq’s Christian History “Wiped From Collective Memory”

  • What a tragic farce the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has been. May God have mercy on us for our hubris and the evil it has wrought upon our Christian brothers and sisters in the middle-east.

  • No matter what one thinks about the decision to go into Iraq, there’s no doubt that the way this was handled was not helpful to the Christian community there.

  • I think the US liberation of Iraq from Saddam and his merry band of cutthroats has almost nothing to do with the enhanced persecution Christians are experiencing throughout the Middle East, and everything to do with a turning to militant Islam as a “solution” to the woes of the Muslim states in that area. This has spawned jihadist groups in every nation in the region. We are seeing an 1848 type Year of Revolution in the Middle East, and I am not sanguine that the Jihadists won’t end up on top in most of the countries in the Middle East after this process is completed. Native Christians need to evacuate that area as swiftly as possible with help from Christians in the West. The situation is not going to get better for them any time soon, and even at its best their situation in the Middle East as a despised minority has been none too good.

  • To claim that the so-called “liberation of Iraq” was not the direct and necessary precursor to the anarchic conditions in which long-suppressed Islamic fundamentalists were finally able to take control of Iraq is beyond absurd. It is the willful denial of irrefutable facts of recent history. It would be a shame if personal pride and partisan allegiance were to impede one from admitting simply that they had made a tragic error of judgment by supporting the war in Iraq; a war that can already be seen clearly as merely the first stage of resurgent jihadist domination of the entire middle-east, with some of the oldest communities of the Christian faith in the world paying the price in blood. But I’m sure that nobody here is so shamefully prideful as that.

  • I think that the question of whether or not we should have gone into Iraq is a matter of prudential judgment and that it doesn’t serve us well to debate the point strongly. We are faced now with a crisis, and whatever the cause of the crisis, it’s best to address what should be done about it now that we are facing it. At this point, I would say that the best way to deal with it is to give generously to Aid to the Church in Need, to pray, and to speak out about their plight in order to generate more international awareness of their right to live with religious freedom. Cardinal O’Brien has suggested that we use economic aid as leverage to gain security for Christians in Pakistan and other countries where Christians are being killed. I’m not sure that is the best thing, but it’s a view worthy of consideration.

  • To put quote marks around the liberation of Iraq is to betray a willful ignorance of conditions under Saddam where some 800,000 Iraqis were butchered by his regime, not counting those who died in his wars against Iran and Kuwait. The jihadists were on the march throughout the Middle East long before 2003, and the Shia and the Sunni have been hating each other since 661 AD. Blaming the US for factional fighting in Iraq is rather akin to blaming the fired department for a seven alarm inferno in a slum area caused by arson.

  • Then answer this simple question, Mr McClarey: From what, and into what, were the Christians of Iraq “liberated?” Dictators, socialists, and Muslim savages kill people all over the world, almost every day, now more than ever. What has that to do with the United States’ role in delivering, gift-wrapped and bow-tied,the Christian communities of Iraq directly into the tender mercies of their religious enemies? The bottom line is that the Christian communities of Iraq and other middle-east countries have survived for 2,000 years and now their existence is threatened thanks to our reckless and costly interventionism. As a Christian American I could not care less how many Muslims kill other Muslims, or how many socialist henchmen (Baathists) kill how many Muslims or vice-versa. I care about my brothers sisters in Christ, and you should do the same.

  • Christian communities in most Islamic states survived as despised minorities subject to gross discrimination and casual murder. The saving grace for many of the Christian communities in the Middle East for centuries was the Ottoman Empire that found it convenient to play off their Christian subjects against their Arab muslim subjects. The fall of the Empire led to this protection, such as it was, being taken away, to the devastation, post World War II and the ending of the brief inter-war colonial rule, to most Christian communities in the Middle East, as the Maronites in Lebanon and the Copts in Egypt, for example could attest.

    Saddam oppressed Christian Iraqis, just as he oppressed all Iraqis, other than that part of the population who served as his henchmen. The US had zero role in delivering anyone in Iraq to the jihadis post Saddam. The US has fought the jihadis as it fought Saddam. Of course, opponents of our involvement in Iraq would have had us capitulate to the jihadis prior to the Surge, with a rapid retreat from Iraq.

    The idea that the problem for Christians in the Middle East is due to US involvement in the region is a pleasing illusion for isolationist sentiment in this country, but it simply is not true. The Christians in the region bear the brunt of traditional Islamic animosity to Christians, mixed in with a strong move in most of the Middle East toward jihadi factions.

    As for our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East, they need to get out as swiftly as they can from the Middle East, and that is the best advice any Christian in the West can give them.

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