Archbishop Bashar Warda is a man of hope, humility, courage and defiance. Christians will stay in the Middle East, like it or not, he says — even if there is little or no room for them among Muslim leaders in the region.
“Chilling” doesn’t begin to describe listening to Warda talking about the threat to his people in that troubled part of the world. Speaking virtually from Erbil, Iraq, he delivered his message to the fifth annual New York-based conference on international religious liberty sponsored by the Anglosphere Society, among others, titled “Act in Time: Protecting Imperiled Christians in Ancient and Other Lands.”
In the years since the Islamic state forced his flock into exile in Kurdistan, Warda has labored to minister, to give families healing and confidence that there is a future for them in their homeland. But the fact of the matter is that there won’t be if more of the world doesn’t pay attention. There were over 1 million Christians in Iraq before our war there began in 2003, and there are now fewer than 150,000.
“The sand has nearly run out in the hourglass that is Christianity in Iraq,” is how Stephen M. Rasche, vice chancellor of the Catholic University in Erbil, describes the situation in his book “The Disappearing People: The Tragic Fate of Christians in the Middle East.” And although there is still time left, if we don’t act now, the 2,000-year presence of Christians in the Middle East will come to an end on our watch. But if any responsible, effective plan of action is to occur, it will need to be based in new thinking, which admits the reality of the situation, unclouded by Western aspirational paradigms and the knee-jerk tendency to resort to claims of phobias and bias, which serve only to obscure the truth.”