ASIA/IRAQ - "We are hated because we persist in wanting to exist as Christians", testimony of Mgr. Warda

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Erbil (Agenzia Fides) - Fides has received from the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer the testimony of His Exc. Mgr. Bashar Matti Warda, C.SS.R., Archbishop of Erbil (Iraq) on the terrible situation that the Church lives in this part of world.
Here is the full text sent to Fides:
For the Chaldean Church, and our sister churches of the East, the persecution our community is enduring is doubly painful and severe. We are personally affected by the need, and by the reality that our vibrant church life is dissolving in front of our eyes. The massive immigration that is now occurring is leaving my church much weaker. This is a deeply sorrowful reality. We who are part of the church hierarchy are very often tempted to encourage our parishioners to stay – keep the presence of Christ alive in this special land. But truly I and my brother bishops and priests can do no more than to advise young mothers and fathers to take all the necessary considerations into account and to pray long and hard before taking such a momentous, and perhaps perilous, decision. The Church is unable to offer and guarantee the fundamental security that its members need to thrive. It is no secret that hatred of minorities has intensified in certain quarters over the past few years. It is difficult to understand this hate. We are hated because we persist in wanting to exist as Christians. In other words, we are hated because we persist in demanding a basic human right.
There are then, two things that we, as a church can do: the first is to pray for all refugees around the world and in Iraq. The second is to use the relationships and networks we share in as part of the Church of Christ as a pulpit to raise awareness about the true risk to our survival as a people. I cannot repeat or loudly enough that our well-being, as a historic community, is no longer in our hands. The future will come, in one way or the other, and for us this means waiting to see what sort of aid (military, relief aid) arrives.
So far, more than 5000 families have so far left the country since the summer of 2014. Some have been welcomed into Europe, the States, or Australia, but many of those families are now simply waiting for their number to be called. They are in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, and their future is on indefinite hold.
Through support from benevolent people we have sought during this crisis to ease the needs of our IDP families and provide them with the basic needs for subsistence wherever we have happened to find them. We have made shelters in church gardens and halls, catechism classrooms, public schools, tents, incomplete building structures, and in rented houses where we have had to accommodate some 20-30 individuals per house.
Realizing that the crisis is going to take a long time and as winter was approaching, we took quick steps to lease houses for refugees in different sections of the province of Erbil to accommodate 2000 families and to set up 1700 caravans. Now, all of our Christian IDP’s are in at least a semi-permanent dwelling. This is far from ideal, but certainly an improvement on the original tents and semi-completed buildings which had been the best we could do for many.
We have also opened two medical centers to offer free medical services to the refugee community. The Sacred Heart Sisters from India are running St. Joseph’s clinic, assisted by 12 young doctors who are training as volunteers to offer medical services especially to those suffering from chronic disease. The clinic serves some 2000 patients by providing them with medication at a monthly cost of US$ 42,000.00.
At present we are rehabilitating a building structure to serve as a maternity and child care hospital. We have also opened a trauma response center to respond to the needs of many who have been scarred deeply by the crisis.
Based on our conviction that illiteracy and ignorance are the most dangerous long-term enemy that we face here in the Middle East, and urged by a wish to heal the wounds in the hearts and souls of our faithful, we have been working to help our students pursue their studies.
Archbishop Bashar WARDA CSsR
For photos of this testimony: (CE) (Agenzia Fides 08/08/2015)