An Iraqi Church leader has met Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and called on the Government to provide urgent help to prevent persecuted minority faith groups from dying out in their ancient homelands.
At meetings in London on Tuesday, Catholic Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil appealed to the UK Government to provide direct aid to Christians and others who have suffered genocide in Iraq.
The archbishop, who also met Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, went on to ask the UK to apply diplomatic pressure to the Government of Iraq to improve security and end institutionalised discrimination against Christians and other minorities.
Later that day, at a meeting in the House of Commons organised by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the archbishop said UK “engagement” was vital if his people are to recover from “one of the darkest moments in our long history”.
He thanked the Mr Hunt for conducting a global review into the persecution of Christians, saying he was “shocked and delighted” when he heard the news about the initiative, which he described as “unprecedented”.
Christians in Iraq numbered more than 1.5 million before 2003 and latest reports say that, following the ISIS genocide in 2014-17, Christians are now down to well below 150,000.
Archbishop Warda said that during their occupation of ancient Christian villages in the Nineveh plains ISIS militants came close to destroying “the beating heart of our community”.
He said that, with notable exception of Hungary, Western governments had failed to match words of sympathy with action and reported slow progress in the task of rebuilding schools and medical care, and declining security.
In the meeting, which was co-chaired by MPs Chris Green and Mike Kane, Archbishop Warda said: “Rebuilding infrastructure is urgently needed but the government in Iraq has said it has no money. They have told us ‘You will have to rely on your friends’. But this surely should be the task of government.”
He said that, with most governments failing to help, his community had been largely reliant on support from Church organisations, praising ACN.
He said: “When Daesh [ISIS] invaded, our people left with nothing. But thanks be to God and thanks to ACN they were able to survive.
“The help of ACN and other charities – through prayers and generous gifts – have reminded us that we have not been forgotten. This help has made a huge impact.”
ACN has helped rebuild 2,000 homes in the Nineveh Plains and provided food, shelter and schooling for displaced Christians.
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