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Iraqi prelate considers options for recapture of Christian territories, homes
"If the government were to want to free Mosul first, many Muslims would flee from the city to the countryside because of the fighting. And where would they go? The would probably go to the currently abandoned Christian settlements near Mosul. This would create further difficulties."
By Oliver Maksan
NEW YORK —"Should signs emerge of the recapture of the Christian towns and villages occupied by ISIS, it would fill the Christian refugees with great hope and encourage them to stay." This is the firm belief of the Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil, capital of Kurdish Iraq.
The archbishop, in whose diocese tens of thousands of Christian refugees have sought refuge, told international Catholic charity that it will at least be several months, however, before the areas occupied by ISIS in Mosul and on the nearby Niniveh Plain can be liberated.
Warda was sceptical as to whether international protection of Christian territories close could be realized once they had been liberated. "It would be important, but many countries will think twice before sending troops into this tricky situation. It would need to be preceded by a reconciliation process in the affected areas so that the Muslim neighbours did not see an international force of this kind as a hostile presence. I therefore believe it more likely that we will rather go in the direction of a national guard,” the prelate said.
According to Warda, the national guard would rely on local people, but be integrated into the Iraqi army. "We as a Church have made it clear from the outset that we are against a [separate] Christian militia. We suggest that our young people, if so inclined, join the Kurdish or Iraqi forces."
Archbishop Warda regards a visit by Pope Francis to Iraq as essential for the long-term welfare of the Chaldean Church. "I spoke to His Holiness in person last November and told him that we would be delighted to welcome him in Erbil. He replied that he would be pleased to come, but that his staff would not allow him to at present." The archbishop said a visit is possible, but that “it will take a little time."
The archbishop described the condemnations of ISIS's deeds by Muslim clerics as inadequate so far. "We have not heard any genuine condemnations which reject these deeds. For the most part, Sunni imams denounce the crimes only because they damage the reputation of Islam. But what about the victims?
“My impression, when I hear speeches by Sunni clerics, is that they would be fine” if ISIS atrocities would not draw such media attention. He acknowledged that there are voices in the Islamic world calling for a new interpretation of Islam. "However, I believe that we are just at the beginning here.”
Archbishop Warda and Christian refugees: ACN photo