An Iraqi Archbishop has begged the UK to send troops to the beleaguered country, saying it has a “responsibility’ to protect Christian population from being wiped out.
Archbishop Bashar Warda told the House of Lords that there were a growing number of radicalised Muslim youths from Western countries fighting with the terrorists in Syria and Northern Iraq, according to the BBC.
He begged Britain to send troops, saying that what is happening in parts of Iraq under the control of the jihadi group Islamic state is worse than Afghanistan under the Taliban and warning that air strikes were “not enough” to win against the fundamentalists.
The Archbishop, who is the Catholic prelate of Erbil in Northern Iraq, detailed how Christians from other parts of the country have been fleeing to his area to escape persecution especially after a warning from IS militants last summer who told the tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yazidis to renounce their faith or face death.
Archbishop Warda told audience that the Christian population had fallen “dramatically” over the last decade – from 1.4 million during the rule of Saddam Hussein – and he was having to plead with families not to leave.
At a meeting organised by the Roman Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, he said: “It is very hard for me as a Catholic bishop to say I have to advocate military action but there is no other option.
“These people have no other way to be dealt with but with military action. Politicians, I beg you … we really do need military action.
“This is worse than what happened in Afghanistan.
“Because we are seeing more and more young people coming to fight with Daesh [how the group is known in Arabic] so we all have responsibility about this.”
“At the same time it responds to what I call the boyish ‘pleasure’ that they look for – the sense of excitement, action, weapons, killing people – it’s a Hollywood event – a real one.
“The response to Daesh isn’t just to fight them in Iraq but also to respond to the Daesh ideology around the world.
“It is not just a matter only for Arabs, Shia or Sunni, it is attracting different nationalities and at the same time making use of the difficult questions about justice, about work, about employment, about excitement.”
The Archbishop said because IS were recruiting fighters from across the globe, there was an international responsibility to deal with the violent organisation.
His words were described as an example of the “desperate dilemma the Christian community of Iraq are now in” by Conservative former Cabinet minister John Gummer, now Lord Deben.
“Having been subjected to war, they are now calling for it as a last resort,” he said.
He was also supported by the Rev Nizae Semaan, the London-based chaplain to Syrian Catholics in Britain who indicated he felt the UK was partly responsible for the rise of Islamic State.
“Who is going to free our villages and towns? We do not believe in the Iraqi army or the Peshmerga,” he said.
“Britain should go and free our cities. In 2003, you didn’t complete the job.”
But Conservative peer Baroness Berridge, chairwoman of the all-party group on international religious freedom, said she was “shocked” that a Catholic Archbishop would say military action was the only option.
“How bad, how evil this situation must be if this is the call of a Catholic archbishop,” she added.
The address by Archbishop Warda backs up a recent report by the Defence Select Committee which warned that the UK’s role in fighting the militants was “strikingly modest”.