'Our people have been abandoned'-- Chaldean prelate blasts Iraqi government, Muslim leaders
"The reality is that Christians have received no support from the central government. They have done nothing for them, absolutely nothing."
ERBIL (Kurdish Iraq)—The Government of Iraq is guilty of not helping Christians desperate to flee Islamic State (IS) militia, according to a leading Catholic bishop from the country.
Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that Iraq’s national government in Baghdad “has done nothing, absolutely nothing” for 120,000 Christians desperate for sanctuary after fleeing from areas terrorized by the extremists.
Archbishop Warda said displaced Christians in his diocese and the nearby Dohuk region are becoming increasingly concerned about their future two months after being forced to abandon their homes and all their belongings in Mosul and the Niniveh Plains.
He said: “The reality is that Christians have received no support from the central government. They have done nothing for them, absolutely nothing. The central government is to blame. It has not fulfilled its commitment to the people. The government in Baghdad received a lot of help from the international community for the displaced people from Mosul and Nineveh—but there has been no sign of it here.” He added that Baghdad was helping displaced Muslims—but not Christians.
The archbishop also charged that Iraqi Muslim leaders have thus far failed to unequivocally condemn the violence carried out in the name of Islam, and the ejection of all Christians from their ancient Biblical homeland.
Citing instances of long-time Muslims neighbors looting the homes of Christians who had fled their homes, Archbishop Warda said many of his faithful felt “betrayed” and were now more likely to flee the country.
He said one Catholic from Mosul had described watching video footage of a man he recognised as his friend and neighbour pulling down the cross of a church rendered empty by the evacuation of Christians.
“We visit the tents everyday and speak to the people we are helping and they say they would like to go back to their homes immediately. Bu how can you live again among the people who were your neighbors who have betrayed you?” Archbishop Warda said a Christian man displaced from Mosul had been phoned by a neighbor who brazenly told him he had entered his house and without permission had taken his cash, giving half to ISIS and keeping the rest for himself.
Archbishop Warda said: “We have not had a clear denunciation of [IS] from Muslim leaders.”He said Muslim leaders seemed concerned only with how the attacks had undermined Islam’s international reputation.
The archbishop said the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil had made it clear from the start of the crisis that it could offer no financial assistance, because the authorities her had stopped receiving subsidies from Baghdad.
Archbishop Warda, who alongside other bishops has coordinated a relief program of food and emergency housing for the displaced people, said the task of aiding Christians had fallen almost exclusively to the Church. “Church agencies have been here helping us since day one and they remain with the people long after the headlines have moved on to something different.”
Archbishop Warda added: “The crisis that has hit Christians from Mosul and Nineveh is not just a shock. It is for us genocide. All voices have acknowledged that this is a crime against humanity.”
ACN photo: Archbishop Warda