Iraq: “ How Can We Live in Such a Tragic Situation?”

Praying rosary in Iraq“In Iraq there are fewer and fewer Christians. The persistent violence, fear, lack of work opportunities  and the issue of safety for life and limb are forcing us to leave our country, our homes and our families,” Msgr. Shlemon Warduni reported directly on the tragedy which seems never ending.

“The future for Christians in Iraq, and this also holds true for the whole of the Middle East, looks very bleak and one could even think there was a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Christians.” With this Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni (70) from Baghdad, of the Chaldean Patriarchate of Babylon, described in a single sentence the grim situation the Christians in his country and the region as a whole find themselves in.

At the invitation of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, Shlemon Warduni delivered a talk last week in Portugal in the “Igreja do Sacramento” church in Lisbon and reminded his listeners of how much violence and intolerance the Christian communities in Iraq had had to suffer in the past few years.

“Please support us with your prayers”

The stories he recounted all have one thing in common: the tragedy which looms in all the Christian communities: “You must be told about the attacks on Christians in Baghdad, Mosul and other Iraqi cities. They [the Muslims] have used violence to force the Christians to leave their homes, threatening their lives in order to pressure them to convert to Islam. After that our Christians in Mosul suffered a further tragedy when several were killed and many families had to leave the city in a state of intense fear … I ask you, how can Christians continue to live in such a tragic situation?”

How can people live like that? The bishop’s question, which already implies an answer, also explains the massive exodus of Christians out of Iraq, reducing their number in the whole country to between 400,000 and 500,000 at the present count. While defending the path of peace founded on prayer, the Iraqi bishop stressed that  that “it is essential to renounce all kinds of war and all forms of terrorism and to build a culture in love in which people can experience healing and live in dignity.”

The auxiliary bishop thanked the pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need for the opportunity to speak personally about the oppression Christians have to suffer in his country. The bishop concluded his talk in Lisbon with the following appeal to the dozens of people present in the “Igreja do Sacramento” church: “Please support us with your prayers and ask the Mother of God to protect us!”

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide. For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384. www.churchinneed.org