07 April 2016, The Tablet

Europe’s bishops told: visit Iraq to learn from refugees

Cutting aid to refugees in the Middle East and closing European borders to them is illogical, said Cardinal Christoph Schönborn following a two-day visit to Christian refugees in Iraq. “If Europeans are convinced that fences are necessary, they must make it possible for refugees to stay where they are. Economising on aid to the camps in the Middle East and simultaneously putting up fences against them in Europe is illogical. On the spot aid is more effective and also cheaper than any fence,” the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna told Kathpress.

Schönborn advocated a dual strategy of increasing aid to the camps in the Middle East and of supporting ordered resettlement programmes for refugees to come to Europe. He said that Europe was showing far too little solidarity with Christian refugees in places like Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan, to which hundreds of thousands of refugees from predominantly Christian villages in the plain of Nineveh had fled in the summer of 2014.

He added that the main purpose of his visit had been to give these Christian refugees a sign of hope and show them that they had not been forgotten. He urgently advised his fellow European bishops to follow his example. They would, he went on, receive valuable advice from Iraqi Christians on how to live alongside Muslims as they had done so for centuries. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako told Kathpress that Christians in Erbil had been greatly cheered by the cardinal’s visit. “Christians here need to feel that the world has not forgotten them,” Sako said.

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