Government accused of leaving displaced Christians to their fate
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 said Iraq’s national government in Baghdad “has done nothing, absolutely nothing” for 120,000 Christians seeking sanctuary away from areas terrorized by the extremists.
By ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Archbishop Warda said displaced Christians in his diocese and the nearby Dohuk region were becoming increasingly concerned for the future two months after leaving their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh Plains. As IS forces advanced, they fled at a moment’s notice and leaving behind all their belongings.
The archbishop went on to state that Muslim leaders had failed to give an unequivocal condemnation of the violence carried out in the name of Islam which had resulted in the ejection of all Christians from their ancient Biblical homeland.
In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Bashar Warda said: “The reality is that Christians have received no support from the central government. They have done nothing for them, absolutely nothing.”
Usually, the central government is the first to take responsibility for helping people forced to leave their homes. The central government is to blame,” he said, adding: “It has not fulfilled its commitment to the people.” He also said: “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 said Baghdad was helping Muslim displaced people but not Christians. The Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil had made it clear from the start of the crisis that it could offer no financial assistance because since January 1, 2014, it had stopped receiving subsidies from Baghdad.
“Aiding Christians has fallen exclusively to the Church”
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.He praised organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need which is providing emergency food, accommodation and other basic help for displaced Christians. “We will never forget the voices of solidarity that we received from day one of this tragedy. 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,” said the archbishop.
Referring to the response of Muslim leaders to the IS attacks on minority communities, 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.
“Not just a shock. It is for us genocide”
In a further criticism of the Muslim community, he cited examples of Muslims in Mosul who had committed atrocities against their Christian neighbours. He said one Catholic from Mosul had described watching video footage of a man he recognized 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 but how can you live among the people who were your neighbours when they have betrayed you?” Archbishop Warda said a Christian man displaced from Mosul received a telephone call from a neighbour who told him he had entered his house and without permission had taken his cash and given half to IS and kept the rest for himself.
Quoting instances of long-time Muslims neighbours 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. “The crisis concerning Christians in Mosul and Nineveh is not just a shock. It is for us genocide. All voices have acknowledged that it was a crime against humanity.”