Archbishop Bashar Warda says his community is preparing to receive another wave of refugees
Bishops in Syria and Iraq have called for worldwide prayer as fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces further destabilized northern Syria.
“We were very concerned when we learned of the Turkish incursion at our borders, for our Christians,” Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo told Vatican News Oct. 14, according to the Catholic News Agency.
The archbishop said that the Turkish invasion revives a memory for Christians of the Ottoman occupation of the region. “Our country and our entire region was occupied for four centuries already,” he said.
“We hope that finally all the Syrians will unite to liberate the country and give freedom to all people, whether Christians, Kurds or Muslims, so that they can return to live in this country as they did before: all together and with the security that is lacking in past years,” the archbishop said.
Christians civilians have been killed and wounded in Turkey’s bombing of the Syrian towns of Ras al-Ayn and Al-Darbasiyah, which both have large Christian populations, according to In Defence of Christians.
Aid groups working in northeastern Syria have begun to pull out of the area, saying that it is becoming too dangerous. More than 100,000 people have been displaced in the past week by the violence, according to the United Nations.
Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said that his community is preparing to receive another wave of refugees.
“Already in Erbil over the past two years we have witnessed a growing number of Syrian Christian refugees who have sought safety within the Christian community here. We expect that should additional Christians seek to flee conflict in Northeast Syria, most of them would come here to Erbil,” Warda said in a statement Oct. 12.
“We pray that the government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the international community would not turn them away, but would help in providing for their care, along with all the other innocents of all faiths,” he said.
Archbishop Warda called for all people to pray “at this critical time” for Syria and Iraq, stressing, “minorities will not be able to withstand another serious conflict.”
“As the Church, our prayers and hopes are always for an end to this never-ending cycle of violence from all participants. We urge all parties to remember at all times their obligations to protect innocent civilians,” Warda said.
Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon Louis Raphael I Sako “appealed to all the Chaldean churches in the world, asking them to pray for a week for peace in Syria and Iraq,” Curial Bishop Basel Yaldo of Babylon said Oct. 16.
Bishop Yaldo said that Middle Eastern Christians “are afraid of a return of the Islamic State.”