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Chaldean leaders pleased that U.S. aid helps Iraqi religious minorities

02 Jul 2018 – By Dale Gavlak, Catholic News Service

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — A Chaldean Catholic archbishop in Iraq said he and other bishops were “delighted” that the United States Agency for International Development is making good on its pledge to help Iraq’s historic Christian, Yazidi and other religious minorities rebuild their lives after attacks by Islamic State militants.

At the same time, Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil advised a visiting USAID delegation led by Administrator Mark Green on 1 July that “time is running.”

“The time should be now and the help should be immediate and effective. Foremost, is the need to rebuild houses so there is a community to go back to and be there,” Archbishop Warda told Catholic News Service by phone after the visit.

Plans called for later rebuilding much-needed infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and government facilities.

After months of delay, the USAID is providing $10 million to organizations led by Catholic Relief Services and Heartland Alliance to help Christians and Yazidis restore their communities after attacks by the Islamic State in 2014.

There have been growing concerns, also expressed by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, that unless the ancient religious minorities are supported to rebuild, many will seek a new life elsewhere.

“Our hopes are high now that this delegation will bring some changes. We especially appreciate the efforts of Vice President Pence and USAID to have them deeply involved in this situation,” Archbishop Warda said, adding that the delegation also visited Qaraqosh and other devastated towns.

“The message they sent was important: ‘We do care.’ The American government and the Americans do care about the fate of the Christians, Yazidis and the minorities and want to help,” Archbishop Warda said.

For the Musa family of seven, one of the many Christian recipients of CRS assistance, the U.S. aid provision could not have arrived soon enough. The assistance is helping transform their badly damaged home in Bashiqa on the Ninevah Plain. Forced to flee from extremist militants, the family was shocked to see the devastation when they returned home last fall.

“It was miserable,” the father, Mowfakk Musa, told a CRS worker. “All the furniture was broken, three rooms were burned, clothing in the house that wasn’t ours was burned. A bomb had hit our kitchen and burned the kitchen.”

“Christian” was written on the wall and the family’s crosses and pictures of Jesus were broken and strewn on the floor. The damage was so severe that the family thought of leaving and returning to Dohuk, a town farther north where they had sheltered. In the end, they decided to stay and restore their home.

Because of the extent of the damage, it was difficult for the Musas to complete the repairs. A grant from CRS, funded by USAID, allowed them to repair the charred walls, install new sinks and faucets and fix the electricity.

Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, said about one-third of the Christian families who fled the militants have returned to their hometowns because infrastructure and security remain inadequate.





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