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Is the future of Christianity in Iraq tied to autonomous Kurdistan?

2014-08-01

In a matter of months, Islamist extremists have purged the centuries-old presence of Christians in parts of Iraq. Chaldean Fr. Rebwar Basa witnessed this new reality in early July, when he visited his family, who lives in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

FR. REBWAR BASA
Antonian Order of St. Ormiza of the Chaldeans
"First of all, when I arrived to the airport and I went out, I saw many, many people. Many Iraqis who are sleeping outside without anything.”

The autonomous region has taken in thousands of people fleeing the wrath of ISIS militants. The fighting has been catastrophic for Christians in the country. Fr. Basa said that their roots date back to Biblical times, and they even share something in common with Jesus.

FR. REBWAR BASA
Antonian Order of St. Ormiza of the Chaldeans
"We as Christians in Iraq, our mother language is Aramaic and also this is very sad that one day we will not find anyone who speaks this language which is very ancient.”

The Chaldean priest, who's currently a doctoral student in Rome, spent nearly a decade in Mosul. But he was unable to visit the city. It was far too dangerous. The monastery he once spent time in, now lies abandoned. 

Like Christian families, his religious order and other religious leaders also left their homes and churches. Fr. Basa acknowledged this violent episode will take a toll in the Church's future.

FR. REBWAR BASA
Antonian Order of St. Ormiza of the Chaldeans
"I studied Philosophy and Theology in Baghdad, and in that period we were more than 70 students. And now they are, altogether, maybe 20 or 25 seminarians. And you know, maybe in the future, they will be fewer.”

In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion, Iraqi Christians began migrating. Many left the country, others settled in Kurdistan. The Chaldean Church followed suit. 

Although based in Baghdad, its seminary is now in Erbil. And June's Synod of Chaldean Bishops took place nearby. And even though he was born there, Fr. Basa said the future of the Chaldean Church is in all of Iraq, not just in Kurdistan. But Christians worldwide need to take notice.

FR. REBWAR BASA
Antonian Order of St. Ormiza of the Chaldeans
"It is our responsibility to help these people and to help ourselves. Because if we want to keep our faith ,we should also be faithful to this part of the world, and we should contribute to help them.”

In his opinion, it's a big loss for the Iraq not to have its Christians, especially when they've been there for so long, and contributed so much. Fr. Basa added that Chaldean Catholics have a responsibility not only to defend their faith, but also their country.


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