Iraq bishop hopes for a swift return to peace and stability

Displaced Iraq Christians who fled from Islamic State militants in Mosul, pray at a school acting as a refugee camp in Erbil.Reuters

A bishop from Erbil in Iraq, where Iran launched missile attacks in retaliation for the US killing of Qasem Soleimani, says he is hoping that the latest conflict is just "temporary". 

Archbishop Nathaniel Nizar Semaan, of Hadiab-Erbil, is asking Christians to pray for a swift return to peace after an escalation in tensions between the US and Iran. 

The Archbishop told Aid to the Church in Need: "Any conflict and tension such as what we have seen over these past days makes us lose our trust in the situation [in Iraq].

"We just hope that it was just a temporary situation of violence and will finish immediately."

Iran responded to the killing of Soleimani by attacking US air bases in Erbil and Al Asad, west of Iraqi capital Baghdad.

There are fears that Christians will be caught up in any renewed conflict in the Middle East, where hundreds of thousands have already left because of years of war and persecution by Daesh (ISIS). 

Archbishop Semaan urged country leaders to avoid a further escalation of the situation.

"We know that the politicians will do everything necessary to stop these attacks," he said. 

"We want to have a good relationship with everybody but at the same time respect our dignity and identity as Iraqi people."

He added: "We hope that we are not going to reach that point where we will have to leave. We hope that we will never reach that point."

Erbil prelate Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda and Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Yousif Mirkis, of Kirkuk, have both expressed concern that Iraq will suffer because of the row between Iran and the US.

Archbishop Warda said that the Christian, Yazidi and other minority communities are beset by "fears and anxieties".

"The current tensions are threatening the serious fragility of [these] communities, which are tired of war and the tragic consequences of it," he said, adding that they "need the certainty, reassurance, hope and the belief that Iraq can be a peaceful country to live in rather than being victims and endless collateral damage."