Christianity in Iraq is “close to extinction” and those who remain may “face martyrdom,” yet some Christian leaders in Britain refuse to condemn the atrocities perpetrated by Muslim extremists for fear of being accused of Islamophobia, the Archbishop of Irbil has said.
During an address delivered in London, the Most Rev. Bashar Warda said Iraq's Christian population is down to just 250,000 — an 83% decrease in population since the United States’ invasion of Iraq, according to the BBC.
“Christianity in Iraq," he said, “one of the oldest churches, if not the oldest church in the world, is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom."
While the Islamic State terrorist group was driven from its last stronghold in Iraq earlier this year, religious structures and homes belonging to Christian families have been destroyed and thousands of families have not returned, he stressed.
"Our tormentors confiscated our present," he said, "while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future. In Iraq there is no redress for those who have lost properties, homes and businesses. Tens of thousands of Christians have nothing to show for their life's work, for generations of work, in places where their families have lived, maybe, for thousands of years."
The archbishop, who has been outspoken about the plight of Christians in his country, also said Britain's Christian leaders are so concerned with "political correctness" they refuse to speak out against the atrocities committed against Christians in Iraq at the hands of Muslim extremists.
"Will you continue to condone this never-ending, organized persecution against us?" he asked. "When the next wave of violence begins to hit us, will anyone on your campuses hold demonstrations and carry signs that say 'We are all Christians'?"
Warning Christians are “facing our end in the land of our ancestors,” Warda said, “the entire world faces a moment of truth.”
"Will a peaceful and innocent people be allowed to be persecuted and eliminated because of their faith? And, for the sake of not wanting to speak the truth to the persecutors, will the world be complicit in our elimination?"
The BBC notes that the outlook for Christians “remains bleak” in Iraq, as tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims persist and there are still IS fighters hiding out in parts of the country.
Iraq is ranked No.13 on persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List of the top 50 countries in the world where Christians face the most extreme persecution for their faith.
In October, the U.S. Agency International Development announced it would partner with the nation's leading Catholic fraternal organization, Knights of Columbus, to help bolster the rebuilding of beleaguered communities in Iraq.
The goal of the agreement is to "facilitate partnerships to help communities in the Middle East recover from genocide and persecution" and connect the agency with local faith and community leaders to help deliver aid rapidly to persecuted Christian communities.
Joseph Cullen, the spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus, told The Christian Post that the organization has so far committed more than $25 million in support of persecuted Christians and those in their care in the Middle East. This, he said, has provided food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care, building or rebuilding of homes and other services.
“While it is always important for Christians in the United States and elsewhere to continue to support their brothers and sisters who are being persecuted or suffering from the effects of persecution, it is all the more important today, when these communities could literally cease to exist,” he emphasized.
“Likewise, U.S. government support for those communities targeted for genocide in the Middle East — including Christians — remains crucial, both in terms of projects that benefit these communities, and in terms of support for their security, which has been imperiled most recently by militia groups in Northern Iraq.”
Speaking at Proclaim 19, the National Religious Broadcasters’ International Christian Media Convention on March 26, U.S. religious freedom Ambassador Sam Brownback declared that “religious freedom is a top foreign policy priority for this administration.”
“We believe this is a universal and natural right,” he said at the event attended by CP. “Every day, I get to work on behalf of the persecuted around the world,” he said, adding that America “is in a unique spot to advocate for the persecuted around the world.”