Iraq: “Pessimistic” Iraqi Christians see no end in sight to the violence against them

0131iraq_archbishop-bashar-warda-of-erbil.jpgBy John Newton and John Pontifex
A LEADING bishop has described how Christians in Iraq believe “there is no future” for them there but are afraid to flee abroad because of political uncertainty and crisis in neighbouring countries.
Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, in the Kurdish north of Iraq, described the people’s shock after father of four Arakan Yacob, an Orthodox Christian, was shot dead on Tuesday (31st May) in the nearby city of Mosul.
Mr Yacob’s killing is the latest in a series of attacks. According to Archbishop Warda, since 2002 more than 570 Christians have been killed in religiously and politically-motivated violence.
In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Warda said that since Mr Yacob’s death a number of the faithful had said they wanted to emigrate.
But he said emigration was difficult because of political crisis and uncertainty in neighbouring Syria and Turkey.
Both countries have already provided sanctuary to many thousands of Christians who fled persecution in the years since 2003, when religious violence suddenly escalated after the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.


(Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, in the Kurdish north of Iraq)

Speaking from Erbil, Archbishop Warda told ACN: “The latest murder adds to the pessimistic view that there is no future.
“No matter how you try to convince people things are getting better they say look at these things that are happening.”
Describing renewed talk of emigration among Iraqi Christians, he went on: “Even the situation in neighbouring Turkey is not that good and with what’s going on in Syria at the moment a family thinking of emigration has limited choices.”
But he refused to be downcast. He said: “The message of hope is always there – life should go on – that’s the message.”
Archbishop Warda has, nonetheless, made no secret of his people’s suffering.
He has provided statistics showing that since the 1980s Christians in Iraq had plummeted from up to 1.4 million to as low as 150,000.
Amid reports of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians fleeing the country, he went on to state that between 2006 and 2010, 17 Iraqi priests and two Iraqi bishops had been abducted and were either beaten or tortured by their kidnappers.
Of those, one bishop, four priests and three sub-deacons were killed.
With no sign of an end to the violence, it has now emerged that Mr Yacob, the Mosul Christian who died this week, had been the target of two previous kidnapping attempts.
His death came three weeks after the body of kidnap victim Ashur Yacob Issa, 29, was discovered on 16th May.
Mr Issa’s family said they were unable to pay the $95,000 ransom demanded by his kidnappers.
As a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Aid to the Church in Need has prioritised help for Iraq in line with a 2007 directive from Pope Benedict XVI to help the Church in the Middle East where he said “it is threatened in its very existence”.
ACN has provided emergency aid for refugees in Iraq, Jordan and Turkey, food parcels for displaced Christians in northern Iraq, Mass offerings for poor and oppressed priests, support for Sisters and help for seminarians displaced to the north of the country.
Thanking ACN, Archbishop Warda said: “It is reassuring to know that people are praying for us.”

Editor’s Notes

Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.

For more information or to make a donation to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 6245 Blacktown DC NSW 2148.

On Line donations can be made at