Christianity in Iraq is “close to extinction” and those who remain may “face martyrdom,” yet some Christian leaders in Britain refuse to condemn the atrocities perpetrated by Muslim extremists for fear of being accused of Islamophobia, the Archbishop of Irbil has said.
During an address delivered in London, the Most Rev. Bashar Warda said Iraq’s Christian population is down to just 250,000, an 83% decrease in population since the United States’ invasion of Iraq. “Christianity in Iraq,” he said, “one of the oldest churches, if not the oldest church in the world, is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom.”
While the Islamic State terrorist group was driven from its last stronghold in Iraq earlier this year, religious structures and homes belonging to Christian families have been destroyed and thousands of families have not returned, he stressed. “Our tormentors confiscated our present,” he said, “while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future. In Iraq there is no redress for those who have lost properties, homes and businesses. Tens of thousands of Christians have nothing to show for their life’s work, for generations of work, in places where their families have lived, maybe, for thousands of years.”
The archbishop said Britain’s Christian leaders are so concerned with “political correctness” they refuse to speak out against the atrocities committed against Christians at the hands of Muslim extremists. “Will you continue to condone this persecution against us?” he asked. Warning Christians are “facing our end in the land of our ancestors,” Warda said, “the entire world faces a moment of truth.” “Will a peaceful and innocent people be allowed to be persecuted and eliminated because of their faith? And, for the sake of not wanting to speak truth to the persecutors, will the world be complicit in our elimination?”
The outlook for Christians “remains bleak” in Iraq, as tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims persist and there are still IS fighters hiding in parts of the country. Last October, the U.S. Agency International Development announced it would partner with the nation’s leading Catholic organization, Knights of Columbus, to help bolster the rebuilding of communities in Iraq. The aim of the agreement is to “facilitate partnerships to help communities in the Middle East recover from genocide and persecution” and connect the agency with local faith and community leaders to help deliver aid rapidly to persecuted Christian communities.
Joseph Cullen, spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus, said that the organization has committed more than $25 million supporting persecuted Christians in the Middle East. This has provided food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care, rebuilding of homes and other services. “Support of our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted, it is all the more important today, when these communities could literally cease to exist,” he emphasized. “U.S. government support for those communities is crucial, in terms of projects that benefit these communities, and supports their security, which has been imperilled by militia groups in Northern Iraq.”
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