Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said that the fabric of society in Iraq depends on its Christians.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme after a weekend visiting refugees in the Iraqi city of Erbil, the cardinal said: “The fabric of this society and its long-term cohesion really depends on the presence of Christians… The specific contribution of Christians is always an emphasis and a willingness to work for peace and reconciliation.”
The cardinal said the displaced Christians he met in Ankawa, Erbil, were “desperate” to return to their homes rather than leave the country.
“That’s what the vast majority want,” he said. “It’s a long path. ISIS have to be pushed back. I think the government there is confident that that it can be achieved.”
The cardinal also gave support to military action against ISIS, but did not explicitly encourage air strikes or any other form of intervention, saying: “There is no way Islamic State is going to walk away without being forced to do so.”
Iraq has had a Christian presence since the second century. In 2003 there were 1.2 million in Iraq; now there are thought to be about 300,000.