Washington D.C., Jun 9, 2017 / 05:04 am
Iraq’s Christians have suffered persecution for centuries, yet their faith has survived and the community will remain, provided their material needs are met, a Chaldean Catholic bishop has said.
“The story of suffering of Iraqi Christians is an ongoing phenomenon,” Bishop Bawai Soro, auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean Eparchy of Saint Peter the Apostle of San Diego, told CNA in an interview. “For two thousand years, it’s a story of suffering, a suffering Church,” he added, a “Church of the martyrs.”
Bishop Soro, a native of Iraq who came to the United States as a refugee in 1976, related of how his grandparents had told him of the massacre of Assyrian and Chaldean Christians in the region around the time of World War I, where hundreds of thousands of Assyrians in the Ottoman Empire were killed or dispersed by the new progressive government.
“The same thing, the whole story was repeated again after 100 years,” he said. “But amazingly, if my grandparents survived this difficulty and were able to hand their faith to the next generations, this suffering generation will do the same.”
Bishop Soro spoke with CNA June 7 after a press conference on Capitol Hill for the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017, a bill that would let the U.S. distribute humanitarian aid directly to churches in Iraq and Syria so that it reaches Christian genocide victims there.
There have been many reports that U.S. aid is not reaching Christians, because either they are not in the U.N. refugee camps or the aid gets swallowed up in the bureaucracy of the Iraqi central or local governments. The bill, supported by Bishop Soro, would look to ensure that aid reaches those who need it most. The bill passed the U.S. House on Tuesday and will move to the Senate.
“The current situation of Christians in Iraq and Syria remains very fragile,” Bishop Soro stated at the press conference. “As a religious minority, Christians still suffer from remaining elements of radical Islamist groups and their policies.”
Christians in Iraq have drastically dwindled in number since the U.S. war in Iraq began in 2003, dropping from around 1.5 million to below 300,000.