For Erbil archbishop, defeating Islamic State militants needs boots on the ground
London (AsiaNews/Agencies) - "We don't have much time left as Christians in this region," said Mgr Bashar Warda, Chaldean archbishop of Erbil, as he pleaded for military action, before a group of cross-party MPs and peers in Westminster.
For him, air strikes were "not enough" to defeat Islamic State militants and "begged" for western troops to be deployed on the ground to allow Christians who fled Mosul and the villages of the Nineveh Plain to go home.
In response, a government representative said the international coalition was taking a "comprehensive approach" against IS.
Mgr Warda's address in parliament was part of the visit the Chaldean archbishop of Erbil is conducting in Great Britain, to plead the cause of Iraqi Christian refugees victims of Islamist violence. In fact, after yesterday's meeting in the British parliament, the prelate met today with the General Synod of the Anglican Church.
Archbishop Warda told parliamentarians that Iraq's Christian communities had fallen "dramatically" over the last decade - from 1.4 million during the rule of Saddam Hussein.
At the same time, "As a Catholic I find it hard to say, but I want military action, there is no other way now," Mgr Warda said. "I beg you to focus on the need for military action," he said as he called for the deployment of British troops on the ground.
For the Chaldean bishop, the situation in Iraq "is worse than in Afghanistan" under the Taliban, because of the growing number of people (especially young) who "want to fight in the ranks of the Daesh", the acronym of the Islamic State's Arabic name - ad-dawla al-islāmiyya.
Recently, Chaldean Church leaders and Iraqi Christian community leaders have come to recognise, with slightly different emphasis, the need for military action against the jihadists, even if it is an "unpleasant solution."
Likewise, the Chaldean patriarch, Iraqi bishops and priests have called on Christian families not to leave Iraq. By doing so, they are depriving the country of a small albeit important group whose presence can contribute to its development.
Meanwhile, backed by US air strikes, Kurdish forces seized some bridgeheads near Mosul, in northern Iraq.
The advance is the latest push by Kurdish Peshmergas around jihadist-held Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, considered a crucial battleground for an eventual major counteroffensive against the IS group by Iraqi government troops and Kurdish forces.
On this occasion, coalition military advisers provided "intelligence assistance" to the Kurdish fighters, who are preparing to advance.
US military sources also said that Iraqi government troops are preparing to launch a major offensive to retake IS-held territory "in the weeks ahead."