Iraqi archbishop reflects on persecution of Christians during visit
By Sean Gallagher
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil in northern Iraq pauses and places his face in his hands when asked how his faith has been challenged and spurred on in the crisis that he has helped manage over the past year.
In the summer of 2014, Islamic State militants conquered the nearby city of Mosul, with its large and historic Christian community. Later, they took a series of historic Christian villages in the Plain of Nineveh north of Mosul.
The Christians of Mosul and the villages were told to convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, die or leave with nothing.
Some 125,000 Christians, including three bishops, 50 priests and 90 religious sisters, chose the last option. Many of them flooded Irbil to the east as refugees.
Archbishop Warda spoke about his experiences of caring for the suffering faithful, his gratitude for the support that Catholics across America and around the world have given to the Church in Iraq, and his hopes for its future in an interview with The Criterion when he visited Indianapolis recently.
Earlier in the month, he took part in the 133rd Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Philadelphia on Aug. 4-6. The Knights of Columbus has contributed much to support persecuted Christians in Iraq. He came to Indiana to visit Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin. Both were previously Redemptorist priests before being chosen to serve as bishops. During his visit, he also was a concelebrant at the archdiocese’s annual Golden Wedding Jubilee Mass on Aug. 23 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (See related story here)
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