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Iraqi Christians ‘close to extinction’ —Archbishop

The Archbishop of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, warned that Christianity in Iraq is nearing extinction following the persecution of religious minorities.

Rt. Rev. Bashar Warda revealed that from 1.5 million Christians, Iraq is now left with just 250,000 believers, reports BBC. In a speech in London recently, the cleric said, “Christianity in Iraq, one of the oldest, if not the oldest Church in the world, is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom.”

Christianity in Iraq, one of the oldest, if not the oldest Church in the world, is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom. —Rt. Rev. Bashar Warda, Archbishop of Irbil

He said Christianity in Iraq has been tormented for 1,400 years, with the Islamic State (IS) as its latest tyrant that displaced over 125,000 Christians since 2014.

“Our tormentors confiscated our present while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future. In Iraq, there is no redress for those who have lost properties, homes and businesses,” lamented Rev. Warda. “Tens of thousands of Christians have nothing to show for their life’s work, for generations of work, in places where their families have lived, maybe, for thousands of years.”

The archbishop echoed the report of the Bishop of Truro in blaming political correctness of governments for failing to stop religious persecution. “When the next wave of violence begins to hit us, will anyone on your campuses hold demonstrations and carry signs that say ‘We are all Christians’?”

The militants have already left the city of Mosul, its last stronghold, in 2017, but the devastation they left to churches, homes, and other religious places remain. In Qaraqosh, the group burned down churches and vandalized religious icons while a third of the city’s residents fled to safety overseas, reports Middle East news service, The National.

Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church., said “One million people have left the country, 1,225 have been killed in various violent incidents and 120,000 people were displaced from Mosul and Nineveh.” However, in the past two years, “An estimated 25,000 people have returned to Qaraqosh.”

The cardinal added that aside from security, the lack of education and employment opportunities, difficult access to public services prevent many Iraqis from returning to their native land. He said, “Security and stability should be provided by regular Iraqi army and police rather than militias.”

Despite the violent past Iraqi Christians experienced from militants and the challenges they face today, Cardinal Sako is optimistic that the future looks ‘promising.’

“Awareness via media and religious platforms will play a role in having an open minded nation who appreciates co-existence and learn how to turn the page,” he said.

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