The Archbishop of Erbil in Iraq, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda, has expressed deep concerns about the potential spillover of the conflict in the Holy Land to the broader region.
He is calling on governments worldwide to take action to bring peace to the region. The Archbishop’s plea comes in light of fears that an escalation of the Holy Land conflict could trigger another wave of migration, which would have devastating consequences for the Christian community in Iraq, a community already severely affected by past wars and extreme poverty.
Archbishop Warda highlighted the widespread fear in Iraq that the ongoing violence could extend beyond Gaza, and he stressed that the minority populations, who often suffer disproportionately in conflicts, are particularly vulnerable. In his words, he said: “People [in Iraq] are really afraid that the violence will spread beyond Gaza. Speaking on behalf of all the people – especially the minorities, who tend to suffer more than others, especially in conflict situations – please God, no more war.” He further urged leaders and influential figures to work toward de-escalation, saying, “We are asking all the leaders and all those who have influence to calm the situation.”
The Archbishop emphasized the importance of preventing the conflict from escalating further, as it could endanger the social cohesion of the entire region. He pointed out that the situation in Syria and Iraq remains fragile, with unresolved issues from past conflicts.
Archbishop Warda also shed light on the anxiety felt by his people in Iraq, with some still uncertain about their future in the country due to recent violence and persecution by extremist groups like Daesh (ISIS), Al Qaeda, and others. He remarked, “The wounds of ISIS have yet to heal,” and the fear of more migration due to violence persists, as it was not long ago that Iraq was ravaged by conflict.
Prior to 2002, Iraq was home to over 1.2 million Christians, but due to persecution, violence, and poverty, a mass migration of Christians took place. Today, there are approximately 150,000 Christians remaining in Iraq. Archbishop Warda highlighted the significance of having a thriving Christian community for the Church, stating that it relies on the presence of its people, unlike NGOs.
The Archbishop expressed his gratitude to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and other organizations that have provided emergency and pastoral assistance, especially during the crisis years when Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and the nearby Nineveh Plains, an ancient Christian homeland, were invaded by Daesh. He particularly acknowledged ACN’s support for the Pope Francis Scholarship Programme, which sponsors students at the Catholic University of Erbil, an institution founded by Archbishop Warda.
During a visit to London, Archbishop Warda preached at Westminster Abbey during an All Saints Day service honoring the martyrs of the Church. In his homily, he remembered the sacrifices made by countless faithful during the years of conflict with Al Qaeda, Daesh (ISIS), and other militant groups. He praised the heroism of martyrs, including his close friend Father Ragheed Ganni, who was tragically killed in June 2007 for refusing to close his church in Mosul.
Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, has voiced his concerns about the potential regional repercussions of the Holy Land conflict and has called on leaders worldwide to work toward peace.
He highlighted the vulnerability of minority populations and the fear of further migration due to ongoing violence.