Archbishop Bashar Warda
The bishop overseeing the needs of displaced Christian families in northern Iraq called on an ecumenical delegation to ensure Britain does not forget the plight of Iraq’s suffering Christians. Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil made the plea to UK Christian leaders from the Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Anglican communities visiting northern Iraq.
Archbishop Warda said: “The needs are huge – the Church has achieved a lot here, but there is such a lot to do. Please remember us and please keep telling the story in churches, in the media and to your politicians – don’t let them forget the Christians here and in the Middle East.”
His message came at the end of a trip to the region by Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, and Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Catholic Bishop of Birmingham, who were joined by the Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet Jonathan Goodall and Dr Michael Nazir Ali, the former Anglican Bishop of Rochester.
Bishop Angaelos, the moderator of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, described how the prelates’ trip was a sign of solidarity with those had had been forced to flee their homes. He said the visit “was an opportunity for us to tell them that they were not forgotten, that they are in our hearts and in our prayers; that we are not just praying for them from the comfort of being in Britain, but that we are willing to go and stand side by side with them and pray with them, seeing where they live, listening to their experiences, and pledging to do the best we possibly can to help them.”
The project trip, organised by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, included visits to camps and centres for displaced Iraqis in Erbil.
The party also saw monasteries and displaced communities around Al Qosh, Dohuk, Araden and Barzan receiving help from ACN and other charities.
Bishop Angaelos said: “I am very thankful to Aid to the Church in Need for organising this trip because it was an opportunity for us to go as bishops from the breadth of the tradition of the Church in Britain, and to be able to experience first-hand what is happening in Kurdistan, and with the displaced people of Iraq; to be able to share their journeys, and to share in their pain.
“I was also inspired by their resilience, seeing that there is a lot of need, but also how much good work is being done for them.”
Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid to the Church in Need UK, who was also on the trip, spoke about how the aid effort in northern Iraq had impressed him.
He said: “It was inspirational to see what the Church has achieved in such a short time with the support of benefactors and Christian communities around the world.”
He described how the Churches in Iraq are not only acting ecumenically – with different denominations working together – but how aid is being provided to all who turn to the Church regardless of their faith.
Mr Kyrke-Smith said: “We met Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholics, Chaldeans, Yazidis and even some Shabaks being cared for by the Church in camps overseen by priests and sisters – many of them internal refugees themselves.”
He added: “The faith of every Christian we met was remarkable and inspirational.”