Christianity in Iraq faces extinction while Britain’s Christian leaders fail to speak out for fear of being accused of Islamophobia, charged the archbishop of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
In an impassioned address in London, BBC News reported, the Rt. Rev. Bashar Warda directed his condemnation of “political correctness” to Christian leaders in attendance.
“Will you continue to condone this never-ending, organized persecution against us?” he said. “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’?”
He said Christians in Muslim-majority Iraq face extinction after 1,400 years of persecution.
In 2003, when the U.S. and its allies removed the Saddam Hussein regime, Iraq had an estimated 1.5 million Christians. Just 16 years later, the population had dwindled to 250,000.
“Christianity in Iraq,” Warda 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.”
He was referring to the threat from jihadist groups, which he described as a “final, existential struggle.” A multinational military campaign drove ISIS from its stronghold of Baghuz in Syria in March, effectively ending the self-declared “caliphate.” But the archbishop said there is a growing number of other groups that believe the killing of Christians and Yazidis helps to spread Islam.
“Our tormentors confiscated our present,” he said, “while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future.”
There is no compensation for those who have lost properties, homes and businesses, he said.
“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.”
‘Moment of truth’
BBC News noted Warda’s views on political correctness are shared in part by the Bishop of Truro, the Rt. Rev. Philip Mounstephen, who is leading the production of a report commissioned by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy on persecution of Christians worldwide.
Mountstephen, the BBC reported, said he believes the Iraqi archbishop “is right that a culture of ‘political correctness’ has prevented Western voices from speaking out about the persecution of Christians.”
“I think though this is mainly to do with a reluctance borne of post-colonial guilt,” he said.
In his London address, Warda spoke bluntly to fellow Christians around the world.
“Friends, we may be facing our end in the land of our ancestors. We acknowledge this. In our end, the entire world faces a moment of truth,” he said.
“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?”
Near ‘genocide’ levels
Earlier this month, the British foreign secretary, Hunt, said, referring to the report, that “political correctness” on the part of governments is partly to blame for the lack of attention to the persecution of Christians.
The report concluded persecution of Christians is at near “genocide” levels in some parts of the world. An estimated one in three people suffer from religious persecution, with Christians the most persecuted group.
The report was commissioned Dec. 26 amid outrage over the treatment of a Christian woman in Pakistan, Asia Bibi, who faced death threats after being acquitted of blasphemy.
Hunt said “there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonizers.”
“That has perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue — the role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic,” he said.