Iraqi archbishop: Plight of fleeing Christians has challenged his faith

By Sean Gallagher Catholic News Service

8.26.2015 2:03 PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) — Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, placed his face in his hands when asked how his faith has been challenged and changed in the crisis he has helped manage over the past year.

He said he has outwardly encouraged the Christians whom he welcomed to Irbil when they fled Islamic State, but within his heart he would frequently “quarrel with God.”

“I don’t understand what he is doing when I look at what has happened in the region,” Archbishop Warda said. “I quarrel with him every day.”

However, the arguments take place within his intimate relationship with God, one that, with the help of grace, withstands even the previously unimaginable challenges to his faith that he has faced over the past year.

“Before going to sleep, I usually hand all my crises, wishes, thoughts and sadness to him, so I can at least have some rest,” Archbishop Warda told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. “The next day, I usually wake up with his providence that I would never dream about.”

Looking back over the year since more than 100,000 Christians and other minorities sought refuge in Irbil, Archbishop Warda said he sees the care of God coming to suffering believers more effectively than he could have ever devised himself, in part through local lay and religious Catholics and organizations like the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Aid to the Church in Need. His archdiocese in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq has, with the help of Catholic relief agencies, provided shelter, food, medical care and educational services to the displaced.

“(God) did it in a way that a state could not really offer to its citizens in such a situation,” Archbishop Warda said. “He did it through the church and through the generosity of so many people.”

His own faith is bolstered as well when he sees the undaunted faith of displaced Christians.

“People come and tell their stories of persecution and how they were really terrified, having to walk eight to 10 hours during the night,” Archbishop Warda said. “In the end, they would tell you, ‘Thank God we are alive. Nushkur Allah. We thank God for everything.’ That’s the phrase they end with. That’s strengthening, in a way.”

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