I knew this meeting was taking place yesterday and emailed my friend Archbishop Warda to assure him of prayers! When we first met in 2010, he was then Fr. Bashar Warda, rector of the new Chaldean seminary that, because of the violence in Baghdad, had to move from that city to Erbil in Kurdistan, northern Iraq. Fr. Warda followed – and probably oversaw – every stage of the construction of the new seminary and it was just about two years old when I first visited for a week in February 2010.
My second visit was in July 2010 when Fr.Warda was ordained to the episcopacy – an incredible moment in his life (I met his entire family and travelled around Kurdistan with one brother), the life of the Chaldean Church and the diocese of Erbil as it had been without a bishop for five years. Another Iraqi Chaldean bishop visited occasionally to take care of business matters, preside at confirmations, etc. but the faith community here really needed their own head of family, their own bishop.
I am delighted at the news of the meeting with Vice President Pence and even more so, what Bashar Warda has accomplished as archbishop. The very day of his ordination he said his two priorities would be to build a university and to build a hospital – employing Christians and Muslims to build both, and then staffing them with Christians and Muslims – what a great way to work towards peace!
His hardest challenge was to find homes and jobs for the huge numbers of mainly Christians who were forced out of their homes and towns – IDP, Internally Displaced Peoples – by terrorists and constrained to move to Kurdistan.
How many wonderful stories I have about my visits to Iraq!
Lots of people are praying for you, my friend, and for the day that all of Iraq can live in peace.
PENCE MEETS WITH IRAQI BISHOP AHEAD OF MIDEAST TRIP
(CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil on Monday for a “substantial discussion” on the needs of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.
“I updated him on the situation facing our people and expressed our hope that peace would soon come to Nineveh,” Warda said in a statement about the Dec. 4 meeting.
Since 2014, the Islamic State has forced thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee their homes after telling them they must convert to Islam, pay an exorbitant tax, or be killed. Many of these Christians have resettled in or around Erbil.
Warda has often spoken out on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, and was in the United States for “Solidarity in Suffering,” a Week of Awareness for Persecuted Christians, an event that began on Nov. 26 and was co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In a tweet, Pence said his meeting with Warda was an “(i)mportant dialogue…about (President Trump’s) commitment to directly assist persecuted Christians & religious minorities in Iraq. I’m heading to the Middle East this month to discuss U.S. plans to accelerate funding those impacted in the region.”
Warda said that “On behalf of our people, I expressed our gratitude for his promise of swift assistance to our communities who suffered genocide at the hands of ISIS.”
“I also mentioned to the Vice President the importance of the aid and support we have received from the Knights of Columbus in the United States, and Aid to the Church in Need in Europe,” he added.
Pence’s coming trip to the Middle East is part of a series of conferences he has attended regarding the plight of Christians in the region. In October, Pence addressed In Defense of Christians’ annual Solidarity Dinner for Christians in the Middle East. The vice president said groups such as the Islamic State have singled out Christians for persecution and noted that Christianity could disappear from some parts of the Middle East.
“Let me assure you tonight, President Trump and I see these crimes for what they are – vile acts of persecution animated by hatred for Christians and the Gospel of Christ,” Pence said at the time.
Warda said that during their meeting, he gave Pence a crucifix from Karemlesh, a town near Mosul which was “targeted and badly damaged when ISIS invaded.”
“I also assured him of our prayers and told him that if he ever visits Iraq, he is most welcome in Erbil.”