An archbishop in Iraq has appealed for Christians to stay in the
Middle East, saying that they have "no choice" but to help bring about
peace to the troubled region.
Bashar Warda, the Catholic Chaldean archbishop of Erbil in the
Kurdistan Region of Iraq, said that the Church must play a role in
"rebuilding the future", providing jobs for communities and helping
people to preserve their dignity.
Archbishop Warda, who is opening the Catholic University of Erbil, told the National Review:
"The Middle East needs Jesus. Christians need to stay. And not just to
stay, but to live in a dignified way, and to be able to preach and to
give Jesus. In the midst of all this violence, Jesus is needed."
He continued: "A violent, troubled Middle East needs mercy. Jesus is
mercy...Most of the communities that you have here — they came running
from violence, from persecution, looking for a better life...Enough of
wars, enough of violence, enough of all these atrocities. We have to
help people live a peaceful life. There's no other choice."
Of the university, the archbishop added: "It's a sign of strength.
When people would destroy your churches and your monastery and try to
destroy you, you have to come up with a clear message, not just in words
that we are here and this is the future. It's not just we are here, but
we also have something strong here."
Warda said that Christians and the Church must not accept "victim
status" in the region. "I would like that the Church would have a role
in rebuilding the future," he said. "I don't like to see our people
marginalized. Being a victim is a sad story, but to accept this status
that you are a victim is a tragedy. So you have to encourage people to
really speak and act and to take an action, provide also some decent
jobs for our community."
Many Christians stuck in refugee camps in Erbil feel abandoned by Christians in the West, according to a report published this month by Aid to the Church in Need.
Already there are more than 1.4 million displaced people in refugee camps in northern Iraq.
Around 125,000 Christians were forced from their homes when ISIS
launched its offensive in northern Iraq in 2014. The attack, which left
Christians with the choice of converting to Islam under threat of death
or fleeing, first hit predominantly Christian Mosul in June that year,
and then two months later came to surrounding towns in Iraq's northern