An archbishop and sister from the Middle East have issued a stark warning to UK parliamentarians that Christians in the region are still suffering persecution.
At a July 5th event organized by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) for the 2022 International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, and Sister Annie Demerjian of Aleppo, Syria, described the precarious position of Christians in the region.
Archbishop Warda said: “There are still people being persecuted because of their faith and thankfully ACN didn’t accept the political correctness and said, ‘Yes, Christians are being persecuted'.”
The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop went on to thank ACN for the schools the organization has helped build, saying that investment in education for Iraqi Christians has helped fight the genocide undertaken by ISIS. “If our children lose their schools, that’s the genocide, wiping out the past, the present and the future. So, we hold to the future. Thank you to ACN for being the voice for the persecuted Christians,” he said.
Sister Annie, who has ministered to suffering Christians in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011, said that the faithful are now struggling more than during the war.
She said: “Now the situation is worse than during the time of war and as our nuncio Cardinal Zenari said, 90 percent of the population is under the poverty line. We are headed for a humanitarian disaster and yet the world is not listening and is not hearing. The media is not hearing about Syria, it is not interested anymore.”
Sister Annie went on to describe a traumatic incident that affected her family: “One day a bomb fell near the house of my brother. After a while, my niece went to see what was happening and was shocked to see her father without his head. From the shock she couldn’t talk anymore. My niece later said to her mum, ‘Mum, will they put an artificial head on like they do for legs and hands?’ For me this is a persecution, when we take the childhood of our children.”
Also speaking was Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Birmingham, who placed the persecution of Christians in a wider context of violence. “Pope Francis thinks World War III has already happened, but it has been happening in lots of different places. There are over 40 major conflicts in the world,” he said.