Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Erbil about giving preference to minorities

Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil tells Crux that as long as special preferences under Trump’s new refugee order are for all victims of ISIS and not just Christians alone, it will help.

“My archdiocese hosts the largest community of displaced Christians in my country, and since 2014, we have received no money from the United States government and no money from the UN. We have hosted and cared for all of these displaced people on our own, with funds we raised privately on our own, nearly all of it from private Christian charitable groups. We are talking about housing, food, medicine, and schools. We have done all of this, and are continuing to do so.”

“I should say also that we are not just taking care of Christian IDPs. We have taken in many Yazidi families in our programs, and our medical clinics serve large numbers of Muslim IDP patients.”

“The Catholic Church is fundamentally on the side of immigrants, regardless of their faith or origin. This is a core part of who we are. So these are complex times in a brutal world. The real question is what is the obligation of the world community, not just the U.S., to all the innocent victims of this brutality. As the Church, especially here in Iraq, we are shepherds to the innocents, all of them – those who are migrating and those who are not,” said Archbishop Warda.

“I am not saying that any group should have a blanket preference when it comes to being admitted as a refugee in the United States. Such a policy would not be right, and would clearly be against our Catholic faith and teaching.”

He added, “It is exactly this reasoning, that religion should not be a factor at all in American policy, that has resulted in Christians and other minority communities being overlooked by U.S. and UN aid programs. We are too small to matter, our communities are disappearing from constant persecution.”

“It is very hard for me to understand why comfortable people in the West think those who are struggling to survive against genocide, and whose communities are at extreme risk of disappearing completely, should not get some special consideration. We are an ancient people on the verge of extinction because of our commitment to our faith. Will anybody protest for us?”

Finally Archbishop Warda explained, “Clearly, I don’t want our Christian people to leave Iraq because I hope our community will stay and thrive in its homeland, and contribute to the pluralism of a land Christians have called home for almost 2,000 years. I think that a real Christian presence is critical to any future peace and reconciliation efforts here.”

“[Small religious communities in Iraq] need the U.S. government to insist that religious minorities get the same rights as citizens that every other citizen in Iraq gets, because right now, we do not get those same rights.”

Originally posted on Feb 2, 2017.

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