“The Islamic State is a cancer and we must prevent it from spreading” – Archbishop Warda of Erbil

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Posted by ACN News
By Marta Petrosillo
(Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil (northern Iraq), Bashar Matti Warda © Aid to the Church in Need)
“The Islamic State is a cancer and we must prevent it from spreading” – Archbishop Warda of Erbil
“The support of Aid to the Church in Need was immediate and decisive. Without it we couldn’t provide accommodation to thousands of families,” So said Bishop Bashar Warda, Chaldean archbishop of Erbil, during a conference organized by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Rome recently. Since the beginning of the Iraqi crisis in June 2014, Aid to the Church in Need has provided more than $10 million in aid. According to the Bishop, ACN’s help accounts up to 60% of all the donations received by the archdiocese of Erbil.

Bishop Warda described how his diocese responded to the humanitarian crisis following the arrival of 120 thousand Christian refugees in Kurdistan, from June to August of last year. “At the beginning we set up 26 different assistance points within the archdiocese. People were sleeping in tents or inside vacated buildings. Now they all have a decent accommodation.” 
It’s been a year since the Islamic State seized Mosul, during the night between the 9th and 10th of June 2014. “Throughout this time the Church tried to help people restore their trust in the future and to keep our community together,” Bishop Warda said. 
Nevertheless, at least 8000 Christians have already fled to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Among them were 500 out of the 6000 Christians families that took refuge in Kurdistan from 2003 to 2014, as they were escaping the persecution that was ongoing in cities like Mosul, Baghdad and Kirkuk. 

(Archbishop Warda talking to a group of men outside PVC portable cabins financed by Aid to the Church in Need © Aid to the Church in Need) 

An uncertain future as well as insecurity prompted the Church to find longer-lasting accommodations for the refugees. “Even if Mosul and Nineveh Plains were freed immediately, it would take a year before people would be able to return to their homes,” Bishop Warda said. However, it is also necessary to invest in reconstruction and development of the areas that have been taken back from Isis. “Even if Tikrit was freed no one would returne to live there,” Bishop Warda said. “Who would want to live in a destroyed city?” 

Bishop Warda called on the International community to put pressure on the Iraqi government. “Internal divisions cannot be more important than finding concrete solutions.” He also deems a military intervention to be necessary. “The Islamic State is a cancer and we must prevent its spread.” 

Christian persecution must also be stopped. “Christians have been asked to choose between conversion, payment of the jizya tax or departing. It’s clear that we are facing persecution, even though sometimes we are considered as collateral damage.” 

Bishop Warda is also hopeful that Pope Francis will soon visit Erbil. “Last time we met, back in November 2014, he himself told me he wished to visit. The Pope’s visit would have a very strong impact on the Christian community.” 

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 172 languages and 50 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: info@aidtochurch.org or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. 

On Line donations can be made at www.aidtochurch.org