Archbishop Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, and a priest of his diocese, Father Douglas Al-Bazi, spoke with CNY at a press conference following the World Mission Sunday Mass offered by Cardinal Dolan on Oct. 23, which both concelebrated.
“At this time, after two years, everyone is waiting, really, for the news of liberation,” Archbishop Warda said of the refugees who fled Mosul and found refuge from his community in Kurdistan.
“We know that it’s going to take some time. It won’t be a very easy mission. So, it’s just a time of waiting.”
Meanwhile, the Church’s humanitarian work continues, he said, providing housing for thousands of families and helping thousands of other families make monthly rent payments, as well as offering food packages and medicine.
“The Church is doing all we can so these people could stay,” Archbishop Warda said, “and, please God, one day they will be able to go back.”
He said he hopes “that all of this evilness of extremism would be removed from the Middle East, and people could go back again to their home…and start building the society, and building the country which has suffered.”
Catholics in the United States can continue to help in the cause, Archbishop Warda said, by raising awareness of persecuted Christians, including “to a political level.”
“We have also to question, sometimes, the foreign policy. And this foreign policy should be always near to the poor and needy and persecuted wherever in the world. The Americans are well known throughout their history that they stood by the persecuted people around the world.
“This is the time that they could continue this blessed tradition, that they would be defenders of human rights, defenders of people who are being persecuted.”
Recalling his captivity, Father Al-Bazi said, “I’m a lucky guy, because I’m still alive,” even though his church was blown up in front of him and he was shot in his left leg by an AK47, in 2006. He also survived a kidnapping that lasted nine days. “In those nine days they broke all my teeth and smashed my nose,” he said, among other injuries.
His faith sustains him. “This is the cost to be Christian there,” he said. “Actually, no one is surprised—even me. I’m never surprised when they attack and persecute my people. I’m surprised we still exist there.”
“We believe that Christianity is not just for good days but also for bad days.”
Neither Father Al-Bazi nor the faithful he serves blames or is angry with God, the priest said. They feel supported by others, including by prayer.
“We do not feel that we are alone. And this is important to my people,” he said.