Archbishop Bashar Warda
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.