Western intervention in Iraq 'disastrous', bishop told

An Iraqi family in a tent in ErbilMariam Tadros/Tearfund

Western intervention in Iraq has been catastrophic for the region's ancient civilisation, the Rt Rev Geoffrey Rowell was told on a visit to the region on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Rowell visited Erbil and Iraqi Kurdistan in December with Rev Dr William Taylor, Chair of the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association, following an earlier meeting at Lambeth Palace with leaders of Middle Eastern Churches.

In his report he spoke of an encounter with a monk at a Chaldean monastery, Fr Gabriel, who said: "You have turned the Tigris and Euphrates into rivers of blood."

Rowell and Taylor were hosted by Archbishop Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, and met senior Church leaders and representatives of the UK's Department for International Development during their tour of refugee and educational projects.

Rowell said that education was a priority both for the 'settled' Christian community of Erbil, and for the displaced.

Additionally, he said: "We saw clearly on our visit to Erbil that there is a continuing urgent need for resources, for housing, clothing, heating, washing facilities and food. The winter is making everything much harder.

"We also saw – and were frequently told – that hope needs to be maintained: what those who have fled want is a return to their villages, and ISIS expelled from the Nineveh Plain, and, if possible Mosul."

He added that more aid would be needed to help people re-settle and to become reconciled with Muslim neighbours, some of whom were seen as having betrayed Christians.

He warned: "The Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces do not engender sufficient trust to be seen as safeguarding Christian returnees – some kind of international guarantor would also be needed."