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Archbishop Warda: Christians are in danger because of US-Iran hostility

After Iran attacked an air base in Erbil early Wednesday, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil said the current tensions between Iran and the U.S. threaten the fragile Christian communities in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains.

“The current tensions between the two powers must not escalate. Iraq has been suffering from proxy wars for decades; they have torn our country apart,” Archbishop Bashar Warda told CNA on Jan. 8.

In retaliation for the U.S. drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, Iran fired a more than a dozen ballistic missiles at the Al Asad and Erbil air bases, where U.S. troops are stationed. There were no casualties from the attacks, according to U.S. and Iraqi forces, National Catholic Register reports. 

Archbishop Warda said his Catholic community in Iraqi Kurdistan is tired of war and its tragic consequences. “They have continually suffered far too much and can no longer face an unknown future,” he said.

“We are a courageous people of hope. Since the defeat of ISIS in May 2017 by the coalition forces, our archdiocese has been working with other church leaders, Christian agencies, humanitarian agencies, governments and NGOs  to help rebuild our fractured communities in Mosul and Nineveh Plain.

It has been a very challenging road to raise funds and international support to help us to physically regain what we lost starting in August 2014. The current tensions are threatening the serious fragility of the communities,” Archbishop Warda said.

Fr. Benham Benoka, a priest of the Syriac Archeparchy of Mosul, said that he hopes the situation of Christians in the Nineveh Plains will be taken into consideration as Iran and the United States confront one another.

“We feel increasingly insecure, especially now that we are talking about the withdrawal of military forces,” Fr. Benoka said in an an Italian interview with Vatican Radio Jan. 8.

Fr. Benoka is currently based in Bartella, a Christian city fewer than 20 miles east of Mosul controlled by Shia militiamen.

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Photo: Bishop Maurizio Malvestiti (left) with bishop Warda (right) during Pentecost all-night vigil in the cathedral of Lodi, 14 May 2016 (Wikimedia Commons)

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