An Archbishop serving in Iraqi Kurdistan took British church leaders to task for “political correctness” in failing to speak out against Muslim extremism that has driven Christianity “close to extinction” in his nation.
"Friends, we may be facing our end in the land of our ancestors, ”The Most Rev. Bashar Warda, Archbishop of Irbil, said in an address in London. “We acknowledge this. In our end, the entire world faces a moment of truth.
"Will a peaceful and innocent people be allowed to be persecuted and eliminated because of their faith? And, for the sake of not wanting to speak the truth to the persecutors, will the world be complicit in our elimination?"
During his speech, Warda noted that Iraq's Christian population is down to just 250,000 from 1.5 million—an 83 percent drop—at the time of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the BBC reported.
Warda also warned that those still living in the region are subject to escalating persecution.
“Christianity in Iraq, one of the oldest churches, if not the oldest church in the world, is perilously close to extinction,” he said. “Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom."
Earlier this year, coalition forces rooted the last remaining terrorist stronghold from Iraq, effectively dismantling the Islamic State, but in its wake remain neighborhood after neighborhood of once-thriving communities of Christian homes and churches, now mere ruins. And while only small pockets of ISIS fighters continue to resist, ongoing disputes between Sunni and Shia Muslims add to the region’s instability.
"Our tormentors confiscated our present while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future,” Warda said. “In Iraq there is no redress for those who have lost properties, homes and businesses. Tens of thousands of Christians have nothing to show for their life's work, for generations of work, in places where their families have lived, maybe, for thousands of years."
In calling out church leaders, Warda said their failure to speak out against the atrocities committed against Christians—which he linked to a fear of being labeled Islamophobic—was "a cancer."
"Will you continue to condone this never-ending, organized persecution against us?" he asked. "When the next wave of violence begins to hit us, will anyone on your campuses hold demonstrations and carry signs that say 'We are all Christians'?"
According to the Christian Post, Iraq is ranked No. 13 on the 2019 World Watch List for Christian persecution. The annual ranking is maintained by Open Doors USA, a watchdog group that compiles the list of the top 50 countries in the world where Christians face the most extreme persecution for their faith.
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Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.