Following the steps of their Lord, the Iraqi Christians have chosen to take the path of forgiveness. They have decided to extend forgiveness to Islamic State militants who had committed atrocities against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities. In 2014, this ultra-terror group started gaining control of large swathes of land in Iraq. Christian majority areas also fell in their hands; resulting in a complete wipe out of Christian population from captured towns and villages.
Reflecting upon the sufferings of Christians, Iraqi Archbishop said that he and his fellow Christians have chosen to forgive ISIS militants who had persecuted them. Archbishop Bashar Warda said: “We forgive those who murdered us, who tortured us, who raped us, who sought to destroy everything about us. We forgive them in the name of Christ.”
Archbishop said that Christians can witness to their Muslims fellows displaying Christ’s love and forgiveness to their persecutors. “We say this to our Muslim neighbors, learn this from us. Let us help you heal. Your wounds are as deep as ours. We pray for your healing. Let us heal our wounded and tortured countries together,” he said.
After capturing the land, ISIS had offered three choices to Christians and other religious communities. The terror group had offered them with options including either to convert to Islam, pay jaziya or die. The terror campaign was highlighted by mass genocide of Christians. As a result, large numbers of Christians fled from their native lands and were displaced.
Explaining the atrocities committed by the ISIS he detailed that in a single night, ISIS took almost everything from them leaving them “without shelter, without refuge, without work, without properties, without monasteries, without the ability to participate in any of the things that give our lives dignity.”
ISIS’s terror campaign has resulted in sharp decline in Christian population in the country. Christian leaders are anxious about restoration of Christians in Iraq, yet they remain hopeful. “While it is true that our numbers are small, the Apostles were much smaller,” Archbishop Warda said.
He was speaking at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. at an event. This event was hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. He briefed the audience that terror group Islamic State had displaced over 125,000 Christians from the region of Nineveh plains only. “So few of us are left, some estimate 200,000 Christians or less,” he explained.
Archbishop said that efforts from the Muslim leaders are needed other than clarifications that Islamic State does not represent their faith. At the same time he praised other countries such as United Arab Emirates, for extending generous support to the victims of ISIS violence. “Since the ISIS attack, they’ve been with us helping all — Catholics, Yazidis, Muslims,” he said.
He termed end to the violence inevitable for religious minorities to thrive in Iraq saying: “Without an end to this persecution and violence, there is no future for religious pluralism in Iraq or anywhere else in the Middle East for that matter.”