06/01/2016, 14.11
IRAQ
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Archbishop of Erbil: Iraqi Church, a merciful witness of persecuted Christians

As the Chaldean Church gets ready to meet, Mgr Warda talks about the work on behalf of refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh plain. We have to "tell the world" about their tragedy and suffering, that they may not be forgotten. Renewing the value of the faith and bearing witness are other goals. Muslims and Yazidis need help to favour "dialogue and reconciliation".

Erbil (AsiaNews) – The Chaldean Church is called to perform acts of mercy for Christian families "victims of persecution" in order to meet "their needs" and ensure that their "personal trials" and "history of suffering" in the past two years are "told to the world,” said Mgr Bashar Warda, archbishop of Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan).

The prelate spoke to AsiaNews as the Chaldean clergy gets ready to meet at a gathering three weeks from now organised by the Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis Sako to revive pastoral work and the mission in Iraq and among diaspora communities.

On 20-21 June, Erbil will host the meeting of the Chaldean Church. The city and the Kurdistan region have given shelter to hundreds of thousands of Christians who fled Mosul and the Nineveh plain after the Islamic State (IS) group seized them in the summer of 2014.

The pastoral care of refugees and assistance will be on the agenda. The meeting will be an opportunity, as the patriarch wrote, to look with fresh eyes at evangelisation and the priestly role in the community. 

"The persecution of Christians in the Middle East should push each of us to rethink seriously the value and depth of our faith,” Mgr Warda said, so as to “provide the clear and honest answer we must give to others."

The words " faith or life” are that much more meaningful for the refugees from the Nineveh plain. From this emerges the "fundamental value of faith" for many persecuted Christians "throughout the world".

This is why, Mgr Warda added, Christians "who live in safe countries" and "protected" settings should give a deeper value to their faith and help and bear witness of those in distress, victims of confessional violence.

Overnight on 6-7 August 2014, hundreds of thousands of people left the predominantly Christian villages in the Nineveh plain, from Qaraqosh to Karameles, finding refuge in Erbil and other areas of Kurdistan.

Mgr Warda played a leading role in providing support and help. On behalf of displaced Christian families, AsiaNews launched the Adopt a Christian from Mosul campaign, which continues after the immediate emergency to meet long-term needs.

"We must continue to listen to their voices and meet their needs, spiritual and otherwise,” said the Archbishop of Erbil. “We must take care of them, and help them live with dignity", which confirms that the refugee issue will be on the Chaldean clergy’s agenda.

In this Year of Mercy, such a task must not embrace Christian families alone, but include Muslim and Yazidi in perilous conditions.

"When we help them, we share with them food and the basics we received. We show them God’s love and love for all our brothers, a central element of our faith." This shows that, as Christians, we are always called to live "on the path of dialogue and reconciliation".

Lastly, the Chaldean archbishop calls on Christians to bear witness and keep the spotlight on the Iraqi refugee plight in Iraqi Kurdistan, "praying and telling" their story "openly even if it hurts."

As an Iraqi priest told AsiaNews a few days, a new sense of brotherhood is emerging among Christians and Muslims who fled IS violence.

However, "There can never be true reconciliation in Iraq without an honest and truthful account of what happened,” Archbishop Warda said.

Meanwhile, “I ask you to continue helping displaced families with donations, to meet their basic needs,” he added.

“Please, do not forget us!"

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