Yesterday (September 2), Solidarity with Persecuted Church met in Washington, DC, with Chaldean Bishop Rabban al-Qas to discuss the situation of Christian refugees now residing in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq. Bishop Rabban’s diocese includes the northern-most governorate of Iraq, and many of the Christians who fled the Islamic State (IS) from around Mosul and the Nineveh Plain are now in his spiritual and material care.
The situation in Kurdistan remains dire, though the refugees are sheltered and are receiving food and medical assistance. But IS has taken away “their churches, their schools, their families, their history, and their culture,” Bishop Rabban stated passionately during our meeting.
The bishop believes that the attacks upon the Christian people amount to genocide, and should be labelled as such by the international community. The bishop fears that while older Christians may desire to return to their homes “one day,” “what about their children?” Bishop Rabban is concerned that younger Christian refugees will have no reason to return home.
In Syria as in Iraq, the bishop is very unsympathetic to the concept of a so-called “moderate” Islamic militia. “The difference between moderates and extremists is that extremists will kill you and take your house, and the moderates will take your house, but let you live.”
Bishop Rabban currently shepherds 5,000 families living in refugee settlements near his home in Dohuk, Iraq. Building schools for the refugees is his number one priority. Because these children speak Arabic rather than Kurdish, they only other options are Islamic Matrasses. Bishop Rabban has already opened a very highly regarded secondary school which serves children from grade 7 through 12 using the Baccalaureate model.
The bishop told us that despite the profound losses experienced by the refugees – of friends, and family, of homes and their very way of life – these “challenges are helping us to be united as a faith.” A remarkable example of Christian unity was a joint first communion service celebrated by Chaldean Christians, Orthodox Christians and Syriac Christians. It is in moments like these that we remember we are all one Church united as brothers and sisters in the Holy Spirit. This also helps explain why Solidarity with the Persecuted Church works with Orthodox as well as the Latin Rite Churches in places such as Iraq and Syria.
In order to further coordinate aid to Bishop Rabban’s people, he asked us to visit him again in Dohuk in October. Our previous visit was in March of this year. We look forward to seeing and reporting to you on the current situation of the faith community about which he cares so deeply.
Bishop Rabban’s people are in need of aid today. Please consider donating to this cause today, in order to allow SPC to partner with Bishop Rabban as quickly and effectively as possible.