Uncertainties for Christians in Iraq

Statement by Msgr Shlemon Warduni, Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad and president of Caritas Iraq

Many people ask me about the conditions and lives of Christians in Iraq. I don’t wish to be pessimistic, but unfortunately the situation is going from bad to worse: bombing, car bombs, suicide bombings, rape, torture, kidnapping and robbery are just some of the agents of death used by ISIS.

Since June 2014 the advance of Islamic State has caused the mass migration of thousands of our Christians along with other minorities such as Yazidis and Christians to the Iraqi Kurdistan region. Christians who have abandoned their homes and land in Nineveh, where our faith has existed for 2,000. For more than a year now Sunday Mass is no longer celebrated in traditionally Christian villages, believers have been killed and churches destroyed. ISIS has turned the episcopate of Mosul into a factory for making black veils for Moslem women.

Program of Caritas Iraq for Christian and Yezidi children in Dohuk. Photo by De Champs/Caritas

Program of Caritas Iraq for Christian and Yezidi children in Dohuk. Photo by Dechamps/Caritas Belgium

Before our very eyes, and those of the international community, Iraq is experiencing unprecedented brutality. Our people, divided by war, are wailing a single lament, and are united in the hope that one day they will be able to go back to living normal lives, in their own homes, thus guaranteeing our children a peaceful future, free from the violence of the past.

As I said a few years ago, I believe a diabolic conspiracy is afoot to evacuate Christians from the lands of the Middle East; and if this were to happen, it would be an appalling disaster for all of humanity as well as for the Middle East, where for centuries Christians have sought to live in peace with Moslems and believers from other religions. Unfortunately, I fear that the international community is underestimating the ISIS “phenomenon”, an error that has already been made by the Iraqi government. At the outset there were only a few thousand ISIS terrorists, then they multiplied and took weapons from the Iraqi army, giving rise to a huge offensive.

Europe and the United States know very well which countries are financing ISIS terrorism via weapons and money and are aware of the interests at stake. Yet by underestimating the threat and not taking it seriously, they hesitate to act. What little has been done so far at international level has only been a means of containing the problem rather than solving it.

Therefore, I am appealing to the international community as the time has come to act, to pursue a common action involving Europe and the United States together, united in the fight against terrorism. No more time should be lost, otherwise ISIS will achieve its objective of total destruction; what’s more a destruction carried out in the name of God.

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