IRBIL, Iraq (ChurchMilitant.com) - If Iraq's legal system continues to allow discrimination against Christians, it's simply a matter of time before Christianity is extinct in Iraq, according to the Chaldean Abp. Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq.
Because of Iraq's Islamic-based legal system, known as Sharia law, Christians "have endured, with patience and faith, persecution for 1,400 years," Warda said in an interview on Aug. 6 that marked the fifth anniversary of the attacks by the Islamic State (IS) group on Christians in northern Iraq.
Speaking of the 2014 IS attacks, Warda said, "This was an exceptional situation, but it's not an isolated one. It was part of the recurring cycle of violence in the Middle East over more than 1,400 years."
"With each successive cycle the number of Christians drops, till today we are at the point of extinction," warned Warda. "Argue as you will, but extinction is coming."
Prior to 2003, noted Warda, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq.
Owning to persecution, he said, "there are perhaps as few as 250,000 of us left."
The truth behind their disappearance, emphasized Warda, is "that we were persistently and steadily eliminated over the course of 1,400 years by a belief system which allowed for recurring cycles of violence against Christians, like the Ottoman genocide of 1916–1922."
Warda wants all minorities, including Christians, to be given the same respect that all human beings deserve. But this isn't the case with Iraqi law that is heavily influenced by Sharia law, Warda said.
"By strictly adhering to Koranic teaching they prescribe dhimmi status, or second class citizenship for minorities, allowing for the confiscation of property and enforcement of the jizya Islamic tax," explained Warda. "We have lived under a shadow for centuries. According to my country's constitution we are lesser citizens, we live at the discretion of our self-appointed superiors. Our humanity gives us no rights."
As bishops and politicians in Europe and the United States drone on about immigration, Warda wants to know if leaders in the West will continue to condone the "never-ending, organized persecution of minorities" in the Middle East.
As the West heralds the seeming triumph over IS, Warda warns that violence against Christians in Iraq will continue because the ruling system "preaches inequality and justifies persecution":
One group is taught that they are superior and legally entitled to treat others as inferior human beings on the sole basis of their faith and religious practices. This teaching inevitably leads to violence against any "inferiors" who refuse to change their faith. And there you have it — such is the history of Christians in the Middle East for the last 1,400 years.
Warda says he wants Iraqi civil law to adopt safeguards that protect the fundamental dignity of all human beings simply because they are human. There have been periods, noted Warda, when Christians were tolerated by their Islamic overlords but it was never because they were seen by Muslim leaders as having equal human dignity.
"It is not, and has never, ever been a question of equality," affirmed Warda. "Fundamentally, in the eyes of Islam, Christians are not equal. We are not to be treated as equal; we are only to be tolerated or not tolerated, depending upon the intensity of the prevailing jihadi spirit."
The archbishop emphasized that when Christians and Muslims live in peace and harmony it enriches all members of society. He also highlighted that fact that Christians can provide a living example to their Muslim neighbors of forgiveness, humility, love and peace.
"We forgive those who murdered us, who tortured us, who raped us, who sought to destroy everything about us," affirmed Warda. "We forgive them. In the name of Christ, we forgive them."