In Northern Iraq, Churches' Resources Strained by Refugees

While Parishes Close in Baghdad, Faithful in Erbil Worship in Tents

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With the migration of Christians from strife-ridden parts of the country to the north of Iraq the local Church there is facing major challenges. Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that local resources are strained to the max.

The fact that the security situation in the country’s Autonomous Region of Kurdistan is better had already prompted 12,000 Christian families from Baghdad, Mosul and other Iraqi cities to settle in the Archdiocese of Erbil over the past few years, he reported. «In Baghdad and elsewhere local Christians are under constant fear that they may fall victim to bomb blasts, murders and abductions,» the prelate said.

For the Chaldean Catholic Church this has meant that, for example, parishes in Baghdad and Mosul have had to be shut down for lack of faithful, while in Erbil tents have had to be set up because the churches are too small.

The archbishop said: «Although we don’t have the appropriate infrastructure to deal with such a growth in the Catholic communities, the people continue to come. In their home parishes they have become accustomed to taking part every day in prayers, services or catechesis. They don’t give up. We must therefore urgently build new churches and premises for catechesis and other activities of Church life.»

The Archbishop described the situation in Iraq as a mixture of «historical, economic, social and political problems,» although, he said, the situation was too complex to cover them all completely. «If I try to explain today what is happening, the reality tomorrow may be completely different,» he continued.

The US invasion had split the society and caused «unresolved conflicts from the past to re-emerge,” he noted. The fact that Iraq was surrounded by countries which are also suffering from many conflicts has resulted in a situation in which Iraq «was often not fighting its own wars,” he said.

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 (USA); (UK); (AUS); (IRL); (CAN)

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