“In times of trouble, it’s always the most vulnerable who suffer the worst,” Archbishop Bashar Warda, Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, said just before Thanksgiving, at a mostly virtual global conference focusing on persecuted Christians and other religious minorities around the globe.
Warda does not speak to Westerners as a beggar, but as a realist. It’s a reality that we are in some part responsible for.
Speaking of Iraq, where Christians and other minorities have experienced extreme persecution, Warda said: “International war was followed by civil war, followed by violence and persecution and displacement, followed by even more violent war and then genocide …” And the list went on.
“It pains me greatly to say this,” Warda continued, “but I must be honest with you. We Christians of Iraq are now down to our last remnant people: less than 250,000 by all counts, and should the world forget us in this time, it’s quite likely that we will have disappeared by the time the world chooses to look upon us again.”
That’s a daunting thought, as Christians have been in Iraq for thousands of years.
That said, they are still there right now, and they are fighting to stay there.
They are not asking us to fix the situation for them, but they are asking us to care.
I’m always struck by the gratitude that Iraqi Christians have for those who do pay attention to their plight. And there is also a kind of optimism, despite their circumstances: Not long after Warda’s remarks, news broke that Pope Francis will visit Iraq in the new year. That’s potentially a game changer for the Christians and other persecuted religious minorities there.