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Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)
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Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)
World News

Archbishop appeals for help for Iraq's Christians a decade after capture of Mosul

by Donna Birrell

A senior church leader in Iraq says more help is needed for the Christian community to thrive in the country.

Speaking ten years after Daesh (ISIS) captured the city of Mosul, Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that around 13,200 Christian families had fled to his archdiocese in Kurdistan.

The Islamist extremist group seized Mosul and the villages to the north and east of the city in June 2014, prompting a mass exodus of Christians, Yazidis and others.

The occupation of Mosul left the Christian towns and villages of the Nineveh Plains vulnerable to a new advance in August 2014, forcing the entire Christian population to flee to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.

Archbishop Warda said around 9,000 Christian families have now returned to their homes in the Nineveh Plains. 

He said he was grateful to the international community – including ACN – for providing emergency aid and helping to rebuild the destroyed villages, making it possible for thousands of Christian families to return to their native land, with “everyone working towards one goal”.

But he added that many Christians have either left or are planning to leave the country because of the ongoing economic hardship, stressing that young people “ask for jobs, not just to receive donations”.

He explained that even though persecution is no longer their main concern, “the pressure of being a minority is real”.

He went on to call on the international community not to forget Iraq’s suffering Christians “in the midst of so many crises around the world”. The archbishop said he would like to see the UK government and other world leaders remind Iraqi politicians that they “care about the minorities – Christians, Yazidis and the rest”.

More positively, he noted that churches in the region are “being filled again”, with many children receiving catechesis and preparing for their First Holy Communion.

He also highlighted the importance of the Catholic University of Erbil – Iraq’s only Catholic university, established nine years ago – in nurturing Christian unity in the region.

He said that his community needs all the help it can get to “keep the flame of the Christian faith shining” in Iraq’s historic Christian heartland.

“I ask my people just to be patient and persevere," he added.

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