A Chaldean Catholic Church leader warned British officials this week that after decades in decline, Iraqi Christians are now facing their “final, existential struggle.”
He called on the British government to take diplomatic action to protect Iraq’s diminishing Christian population.
“Christianity in Iraq,” he said during his address in London, according to the BBC, “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,” he said.
The archbishop told British leaders that jihadist pressure in the region — despite the Islamic State group’s decline in recent months — still presents a major threat, having already forced more than 125,000 Iraqi Christians out of their homes since the terror organization’s initial rise in 2014.
Iraq’s Christian population had already sustained tremendous losses in previous years, seeing an 83 percent decline in population — down to 250,000 from almost 1.5 million — since the early 2000s, according to Warda.
“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,” Warda added.
He argued that, should western leaders continue to turn a blind eye to these struggles, a 1,400-year-old community of Christians could soon be entirely displaced from its land of origin, if not wiped out completely.
Warda used sharp words to address what he believes to be the cause of western hesitance.
“Will you continue to condone this never-ending, organized persecution against us?” Warda 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?'”
“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?” he said.
Some British church officials rallied behind Warda.
The Rev. Philip Mounstephen, who serves as the Church of England’s bishop of Truro, told the BBC he feels placing the blame solely on “Islamic militancy” would “let a lot of other people off the hook who should otherwise be held to account.”
But Mounstephen did say a self-imposed cultural “guilt” has resigned the west to inaction when it comes to protecting Middle Eastern Christians.
“I think the archbishop is right that a culture of ‘political correctness’ has prevented Western voices from speaking out about the persecution of Christians,” Mounstephen said.
“I think though this is mainly to do with a reluctance borne of post-colonial guilt.”
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