“One of the most important aspects of being Catholic is to have a sense of being a missionary,” said Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, during a presentation in the Gentile Gallery Dec. 5.
Warda, archbishop of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, sought to draw support for volunteer work at the Catholic University in Erbil. The presentation focused on the university’s need for English-speaking teachers rather than financial support.
Warda described how an inherent part of being Catholic is acting as a missionary. “We have to be ready to discern at any moment of our life and, at the same time, be willing to trust (God) that he will provide us the time and the land where we will go to serve,” Warda said.
Warda then transitioned into describing the persecution of religious minorities in Iraq under ISIS. Starting in 2014, ISIS’ persecution reduced the number of Catholics in Iraq from over 1 million to less than 200,000.
Warda said that the Christian community trusted in God despite the upheaval. As a result, the faith of the church in Iraq was strengthened. The church itself was blessed with many graces, taking on a missionary nature.
“(God) showed us through this turmoil there’s something good, not just for Christians but for the whole people,” he explained.
Warda shared a video of students at the Catholic University in Erbil expressing their gratitude for the university. The students had suffered greatly under ISIS, but they maintained their joy and zeal for learning.
Another video featured missionary Stephen Swain from Dallas, a volunteer teacher at the university in Erbil. Swain said he felt called to assist the people of Erbil, and he shared his love for the community and the university’s work.
Swain’s testimony was meant to show the joy that can come from missionary work in Erbil; he wishes to spread awareness of the mission and hopefully draw more potential volunteers.
Finally, Warda played a video of Erbil’s children’s choir singing the “Our Father” in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. The night closed with Warda blessing the audience in his native language.
Junior James McCarty, who had heard of Warda’s work in the past, was inspired by the presentation. “Praise God for the work that they’re doing amidst all the persecution,” McCarty said. “It seems like they’re really starting something beautiful to help Christians and Catholics build a better life.”
The presentation was organized by the Master of Catholic Leadership Program.