Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil continues to pray and have hope for his people
Despite the recent abduction of over 100 Assyrian Christians by the Islamic State (ISIS), many Iraqi Christians say they have no intention of leaving their country. Still, their fate remains uncertain.
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil told the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ newspaper, The Criterion, that he “argues with God every day” and is that he “fails to understand what God is doing when it comes to the extreme suffering of persecuted Christians in the region.”
“I quarrel with him every day,” he says.
Ward says the airstrikes carried out by the U.S. and its allies have so far kept Erbil from being occupied by ISIS, but the same that happened to Mosul could happen to Erbil. Over 100,000 Christians and other minorities have landed in Erbil in the past year alone, fleeing ISIS, which is called “Daesh” in Arabic.
“Daesh is evil,” says Archbishop Warda. “The way they slaughter, the way they rape, the way they treat others is brutal. They have a theology of slaughtering people.”
He believes a coalition led by Americans has stopped the advacenment of ISIS, which has given some security to the peope, but ISIS is still only 25 miles away from Erbil.
“… It’s not far away. Anything could happen,” he says. At the end of the day,he says he leaves his worries in the hands of God. “Before going to sleep, I usually hand all my crises, wishes, thoughts and sadness to Him, so I can at least have some rest … The next day, I usually wake up with His providence that I would never dream about.”
Warda has high praise for Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and Aid to the Church in Need, who have provided food, shelter, medical care, and educational help to the Kurdistan region,. He says it is the church and the generosity of many people who have shown God’s love to them — in a way “that a state could not really offer to its citizens in such a situation.”
The archbishop says above all it is the perscuted faithful that strengthen him:
“People come and tell their stories of persecution and how they were really terrified, having to walk eight to 10 hours during the night,” says Warda. “In the end, they would tell you, ‘Thank God we are alive. Nushkur Allah. We thank God for everything.’ That’s the phrase they end with. That’s strengthening, in a way.”
Zoe Romanowsky is Lifestyle Editor and Video Content Producer for Aleteia.