UD Stands by Iraqi Archbishop To End Christian Persecution Through Education
Date Published: Nov. 1, 2016
Dedicated to helping bring his country out of civil unrest, Bashar Warda, the Chaldean
Archbishop of Erbil in northern Iraq, made a recent trip to the United States to receive
his 2016 Pope Francis Charity and Leadership Award in New York while raising funds
for and awareness of the humanitarian crisis currently plaguing Iraqi Christians in
Archbishop Warda’s trip also included a stop in Dallas on behalf of Bishop Greg Kelly,
a visit to the University of Dallas and a meeting with President Thomas W. Keefe.
“The archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, is committed to helping heal the wounds that have
festered in the Middle East for decades, and he believes education is the surest path,”
said President Keefe. “He came asking for the university’s assistance by providing
access to graduate education for their students once they complete their undergraduate
studies. I told him that was, of course, a no-brainer and that the University of Dallas
is committed to helping him in any way we can.”
Where once 1.4 million Christians lived, there are now just a little more than 200,000
in Iraq due to decades’ worth of continued violence, suffering and religious persecution
against Christians by the radical Islamic State (ISIS).
To date, hundreds of thousands of Christians have either fled Iraq for countries such
as the United States and Germany or have been killed by radical extremists. And Iraqi
Christian families who’ve remained despite these ISIS-led attacks have become refugees
in their own country. Those who stayed largely fled to the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese
of Erbil, one of the few safe havens left in the country now fighting for religious
Notwithstanding the religious persecution of Christians, Archbishop Warda has already
helped open Iraq’s very first Catholic university and six elementary and secondary
“There will always be Christians in Iraq,” Warda told The Catholic News Agency.
Religious persecution against Christians isn’t a new issue for Iraq, but through education
Warda believes that they can build an accord among all Muslims and Christians, regardless
of any religious preferences. Currently, some 90 percent of students in these schools
practice different religions.
“While the fighting rages within 17 kilometers of Erbil, Archbishop Warda is building
bridges, metaphorically, while so many are trying to destroy them,” said President
Iraq has long been in the international spotlight because of violence that has persisted
for decades. Longtime friend of the University of Dallas (who recently spoke at the
university’s 2016 spring commencement and at this year’s Dallas Ministry Conference)
John Allen Jr., editor of the independent Catholic news site Crux and senior Vatican
analyst for CNN, authored The Global War on Christians, which illuminated the horrific religious violence taking place against Christians
around the world, including in Iraq.
“Christians today indisputably form the most persecuted religious body on the planet,
and too often its new martyrs suffer in silence,” said Allen in The Global War on Christians.
Archbishop Warda, who’s now one of the last practicing Catholic bishops to remain
in his country following the ISIS takeover of Mosul, stands at the forefront of the suffering. In Erbil, they have given thousands of
refugees safe harbor, and thus far Archbishop Warda has helped raise more than $31
million in funding from the Aid to the Church in Need, as well as 16 other Catholic
organizations from around the world.
"We believe Archbishop Warda is doing the work Jesus called for us to do, and we’re
blessed to have the opportunity to participate in a small way,” said President Keefe.