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Cardinal Nichols on Iraq Visit: We Cannot Think of Region’s Future Without Its Christians

Says Refugees’ ‘Resilience of Faith’ Helps Them Face Challenges

In the wake of his weekend visit to Iraq, the Archbishop of Westminster has called for the ‘resilience of faith’ to never be underestimated.

According to Vatican Radio, English Cardinal Vincent Nichols, visited Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, to meet with Christian refugees whose lands were taken over by Islamic State’s militants, and following the visit, shared about his experience.

Just as Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Pope’s envoy to Iraq, visited the war-torn region and expressed the Church’s solidarity, Cardinal Nichols’ April 11-13 visit with the nation’s Christian refugees aimed to do the same.

While confirming that most displaced people who come from villages in the Nineveh Plains wish to return home, Cardinal Nichols pointed out that they are aware that it will be difficult, especially for those from the city of Mosul.

Once the territory has been liberated, he said, it has to be secured and cleared of mines. From there, work can begin of rebuilding institutions and the rule of law, and eventually on overcoming fear, boosting morale, and healing rifts within the society.

The English cardinal stressed, “We cannot think of the future of this region without the Christian community being present.”

It would be very helpful, the leader of the bishops of England and Wales stressed, if the British government could publically recognize “the specificity of the gifts of the Christian community” and the “resilience of faith” in helping face the challenges of the whole region.

During the visit, Cardinal Nichols, along with Archbishop Bashar Warda, held a Mass for the Christians in Erbil, many of whom have fled from the Nineveh Plains, in the Chaldean Catholic Cathedral. 

Over 120,000 men, women and children have been forced to flee from their homes, with only a few hours notice, and find a new place to settle. At first, they would stay in makeshift camps and now in slightly more stable housing or containers.

Cardinal Nichols stressed that sending troops is not the only way to make a difference. He said there are many other ways in which Western governments can help to liberate and secure the territory that last August was overrun by militants.

The cardinal said he will tell the British government “they should never underestimate the benefit and strength and resource” of the Christian faith as those displaced and suffering across the war-torn region search for stability. (D.C.L.)

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Article announcing Cardinal Nichols’ visit to Iraq: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/cardinal-nichols-will-visit-with-christian-refugees-in-erbil

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