Erbil, Iraq, Jun 9, 2014 / 04:49 pm (CNA).- Iraq's Kurdistan region is enjoying peace relative to the rest of the country, which has led thousands of Christian families to migrate there, straining the local Church.
Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Arbil told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need June 6 that in recent years, more than 12,000 Christian families have settled in his eparchy, from Baghdad, Mosul, and other Iraqi cities.
“Although we don't have the appropriate infrastructure to deal with such a growth in the Catholic communities, the people continue to come,” he said.
While parishes in Baghdad and Mosul have been shut down as Catholic emigrate, priests of the Arbil archeparchy have been celebrating Liturgy in tents.
“In their home parishes they have become accustomed to taking part every day in prayers, services or catechesis. They don't give up. We must therefore urgently build new churches and premises for catechesis and other activities of Church life.”
The Chaldean Catholic Church is a Church of the East Syrian rite native to Iraq's Assyrian population and headed by the Patriarch of Babylon.
Arbil is the capital of Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan, which has been peaceful in recent years, relative to southern and western Iraq. Christian families wishing to flee violence, yet remain in their home country, have sought out the region.
“In Baghdad and elsewhere local Christians are under constant fear that they may fall victim to bomb blasts, murders and abductions,” said Archbishop Warda.
In recent weeks, the Islamist State in Iraq and the Levant have seized portions of the central cities of Ramadi and Falluja, and militants attacked Samarra June 5.
Also on June 5, three persons were killed in bombings in Baghdad, and four were murdered in Mosul, in northwest Iraq.
In addition to the influx of Christians from other parts of Iraq, the nation's Kurdistan has also received a large number of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. The region has received tens of thousands of Syrians in recent years; Archbishop Warda commented that Iraq's proximity to countries suffering conflicts of their own has meant that his nation “was often not fighting its own wars.”
Archbishop Warda said the situation in Iraq is a mixture of “historical, economic, social and political problems … if I try to explain today what is happening, the reality tomorrow may be completely different.”
He added that the U.S.-led invasion had split Iraqi society, causing “unresolved conflicts from the past to re-emerge.”
The Arbil archeparchy's six priests served some 30,000 faithful in 2012, in seven parishes.