“And, yet, we are still there, scourged, wounded, yet still there,” he noted.
“So few of us are left, some estimate 200,000 Christians or less,” continued the Chaldean bishop. “While it is true that our numbers are small, the apostles were much smaller.”
When speaking of the suffering of his people, the Archbishop also spoke of forgiveness.
“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.”
He said he believes that this message of forgiveness is something Christians can witness to their Muslim neighbors in the Middle East.
“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.
Warda called on Muslim leaders to acknowledge that changes need to be made to protect religious minorities.
“It is not enough to say, ‘ISIS does not represent Islam.’ We need more.”
“I would encourage Muslim countries to come and step forward in helping by rebuilding Christian villages, Yazidis villages, to show some sign of solidarity,” Warda said.
As an example of this, he acknowledged the work of the United Arab Emirates: “Since the ISIS attack, they’ve been with us helping all -- Catholics, Yazidis, Muslims.”
“There is a fundamental crisis within Islam itself and if this crisis is not acknowledged, addressed and fixed then there can be no future for Christians in the Middle East,” he said.
“We’ve been hearing some courageous voices from Islamic leaders concerning the need of change and the need to address this issue openly. It should be encouraged.”
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He also stressed the importance of “honesty and respect” in inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
Warda is working towards sustainable solutions to rebuild his community in northern Iraq. He sees hope in the new Catholic University of Erbil, which recently opened its doors thanks to the financial support from the Italian bishops conference.
“We, Christians who have the good news and the forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ, I think that we could offer something. We can open our schools, open our educational centers even to those who tortured us and to tell them, ‘Please, listen to who we are and let us know who you are. Within educational institutions, we really have the chance to know each other better well and grow in tolerance and respect for each other,” Warda told EWTN.
Christian and Muslim students study together at the Catholic University of Erbil, which will someday host up to 700 students. Today there are currently 82 students studying economics, international law, English literature, accounting, and other degrees.
Dr. MaryAnn Cusimano Love visited the Catholic University of Erbil last year. She told CNA that she saw firsthand in Iraq “the courageous work that the Church is doing,” and encouraged Christian groups to give direct aid to Archbishop Warda.
“We can keep him in our prayers, we can give him our direct aid, and continue to keep them in solidarity whether our governments are or not,” she said.