IRAQ – Iraqi shepherd determined that Christianity not only survive but thrive

CruxNow | 061218

ERBIL, Iraq – Officially speaking, anyway, there’s no index of the moral heroes of Catholicism in our time. There would be plenty of candidates, clergy and religious lay men and women, all over the world who put their lives on the line in every imaginable way to serve the planet’s most marginalized and suffering people.

Somewhere near the top of the list, however, would have to be Archbishop Bashar Warda, leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq.

Warda has arguably the world’s toughest gig for a Catholic bishop right now, leading a place that became a vast tent city in 2014 when ISIS invaded the Nineveh Plains and drove thousands of Christians from villages that had been their families’ homes, in some cases, for almost two millennia. Eventually, ISIS’s onslaught was recognized as “genocide” not only by Pope Francis but also by the U.S. government.

Since the Iraqi government lacked the resources, the will, or both, to do much of anything, it fell to Warda to launch what amounted to a Dunkirk-in-place operation, giving these people shelter, food, health care, schooling for the children, jobs where possible, and, ultimately, some tender sense of hope.

Today, many of those Christians are trying to go home, sustained by the “Nineveh Plains Reconstruction Project” funded and supported by several Catholic organizations including the papal foundation Aid to the Church in Need and the Knights of Columbus.