To support the faithful and encourage them to stay in their homeland, the Syriac Catholic…
Supporting Iraq is a just and merciful cause
I can’t get off my mind that the archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, spoke in December at the United Nations, to the Security Council, and nobody, relatively speaking, seemed to notice — in the United States, at least. In Iraq, the protesters who have been out in force for months now noticed. They put Archbishop Bashar Warda’s face on their placards in thanksgiving. He is now a hero to them — many of them Muslims. What a powerful reality! It’s exactly the message Archbishop Warda is trying to convey. Christians are leaven in society, and it is in the best interest of all to welcome them and protect their freedom.
That’s the message Archbishop Warda has been trying to relay with his life. But in recent years, he has been as an activist, too, sounding an alarm to the world that Christians won’t exist in Iraq in a few years if the world doesn’t help them. He’s been doing everything he can, with the help of the Knights of Columbus, in no small way, to give the Christians in Iraq some confidence that there is a future for them.
At the top of his priority list is education. People will stay if they can give their children an education. He’s opened a Catholic university and made partnerships, most recently with Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. This is something we should pray for and support in whatever ways we can.
But does this even come as news to you? We are often more up on what Kanye West and the Kardashians are doing than we are with the suffering Christians in the world. Archbishop Warda, as Christians do, cares for the other religious minorities and anyone who suffers. Some of the most powerful work he has done involves the healing of Yazidi families after the brutal sexual violence that the so-called Islamic State tortured women and girls with. The reality is that the majority of the displaced are Christians.
And we Christians have a responsibility to them, especially if we — like me — supported the war in Iraq that made their lives worse. While that was not the intention, that was the reality. When I once interviewed an Iraqi priest who had been brutalized by Islamic militants in the wake of the intervention, and I unexpectedly (and tearfully) apologized to him, he harbored no ill will, no bitterness. He simply thanked me for caring. That’s their reality. Most Americans don’t even know there are Christians in Iraq — even after the Obama administration recognized the ISIS genocide against them there (thanks to the pressure from the Knights of Columbus).
In his U.N. speech, Archbishop Warda pointed out that the protests have been led by young Iraqis: “These young people have made it clear that they want Iraq to be independent of foreign interference, and to be a place where all can live together as equal citizens in a country of legitimate pluralism and respect for all.” That should make Americans comfortable — they are not asking for our blood and treasure, they are asking for support in this task. They are asking for the West to avoid propping up a government that will not respect the rights of minorities. They are asking for help with free and fair elections. They are asking that we not impose our will on them again.
What Warda said at the U.N. should have us all on our knees and giving voice to the cry of the protesters: “At stake is whether Iraq will finally emerge from the trauma of Saddam and the past 16 years to become a legitimate, independent and functioning country, or whether it will become a permanently lawless region, open to proxy wars between other countries and movements, and a servant to the sectarian demands of those outside Iraq.”
These are our brothers in sisters in Christ, many of whom have given just about everything for their faith. They show us what we are called to. We must hear their cries and support their just — and merciful — cause.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.