â€œI have great hope for the future of the Church in Iraq – and it comes from a group of young men â€“ those men who studied together for the priesthood in Babel College for six years, they have built the bonds of brotherhood and commitment to the faith, they together with the ordinary people are the foundation for the future of the Church in my countryâ€. The voice of the recently appointed Bishop to the Chaldean Church in Erbil, Bassar Warda, is one that goes against the tide of pessimism that has enveloped many in the martyred Church of that nation. â€œOne of the fruits that I will bring back to my people from the Synod â€“ he continues â€“ is that together we must look to the futureâ€.
Bishop Warda is far from unrealistic. He acknowledges that â€œno one was prepared for the degree of upheaval in the life of the Church in our country in the wake of 2003â€. He also flatly states that yes many of the churches, seminaries, schools and parish halls of Baghdad and Mosul lie abandoned or are closed while the communities they once housed seek resettlement in his diocese. â€œEven the churches that Fr Ragheed Ghanni [shot dead by assailants in 2007] and Archbishop Rahho [kidnapped and murdered in 2008] served are empty, while I am trying to find ways to build new churches in my diocese to meet the needs of the faithfulâ€. No-one can escape from the fact that the face of Christianity in Iraq has radically changed, however, Bishop Warda belives in resurrection and new beginnings, as he tells Tracey McClure.Listen: