By Martin Manna
During his recent visit to the United Sates from Iraq, Chaldean News Co-Publisher, Martin Manna, had the opportunity to sit down with Bishop Yaldo for an interview.
This interview was translated from Sourath.
Chaldean News (CN): How are the conditions for Christians in Iraq today?
Bishop Yaldo (BY): Now it is a little better. Baghdad is better now than it was in the past. There are no longer any bombings. One thing we don’t have are social services. For instance, if it rains, Baghdad will flood because there are no social services to maintain the infrastructure. It has been like this for 15 years. All the money goes into pockets of politicians. We don’t have enough money to build a new hospital or bridge because of the corruption. We hope the new government will acknowledge us and our villages, especially Plain of Nineveh.
We are better now; more than 1,000 families are in Teleskof. We have more than 400 families in karemlish. In Telkaif we have 18 families now; 18 families came back. They’re not big families. We have a problem there because the military there. In Mosul, we have more than 70 families that have returned. We remodeled St. Paul after it was damaged and will be reopening it.
CN: Regarding the current elections, what do you think al-Sadr will bring? Are you concerned?
BY: He can’t take the government without a coalition, he doesn’t have enough members. It depends on who he forms a coalition with; he doesn’t want to deal with Iran.
The vision is not clear for the future of Iraq.
CN: When will they form the new government?
BY: They have to by the end of June. They have a month to get the government together.
CN: There was five members that were part of the Christian Coalition and there has been talk, who is Ryan Chaldean? Is he supportive of the Chaldeans? Is he a member of the church?
BY: Ryan Chaldean was the leader from the Shiite militia.
He is proud of Chaldean; he says, ‘I am Chaldean’. In front of the world he says he is Chaldean. But we do not associate with him. He said he is Chaldean so others who identify as Chaldean would vote for him.
CN: How many of the five seats are his?
BY: He got 30,000 votes, so two out of the five seats are his. One seat went to someone from the Assyrian party (Zowaa). Yonadam Kanna didn’t get it, though. Emmanuel Khoshaba did.
CN: Now that the elections are over, do you have any sense of who is going to be the next prime minister?
BY: I wish it would be Kahled al-Obaidi, but the problem is he has to be Shiite.
CN: Is there still a threat of civil war between Shiite and Sunni?
BY: Yes, unless Abadi accepts the condition of settling then they will be one.
CN: You said that security is getting better, but are the Christians still leaving Iraq?
BY: Yes, because they have nothing. Christian families in Iraq, most of them left Iraq. There are only parents left, the children are diaspora. That is the problem. The children will not return to Iraq. Who is left in Iraq? Poor people, anybody that has money, left Iraq. All the doctors, the lawyers, the engineers left Iraq.
CN: Do we have a future there?
BY: If we have security and jobs, I think we have a good future if it will be a good government.
CN: If you could ask the Iraqi government for anything to help the Chaldeans or the Christians, what would you ask them?
BY: First, to return our people to our villages; to help them return. Second, to build some schools, hospitals, etc. in our villages and help find jobs for the youth.
CN: The U.S. government said that they took all their aid from the United Nations and now want it to go to the USAID and they said they’re no longer going to give the money directly to the government, they want direct aid. Have you seen this yet?
BY: Up until now, I have seen nothing. Just words, just promises.
CN: What percentage of the villages have been rebuilt and how many more need to be rebuilt?
BY: We need to build Batnaya, we need to prepare some churches in Telkaif, Baqopa, and Karemlesh. In Teleskof we are good. In Alqosh and Dohuk everything is good. We just have problems in Batnaya and some problems in Baqopa and Telkaif.
CN: What’s the current situation between the KRG and the central government? Our villages are in disputed territory and so is it correct that half the villages are being protected by the central government and the other half by the peshmerga? Do you like that? What’s the solution?
BY: The solution would be for all of them to be under the central government. This is the best solution because we are between Kurdistan and Baghdad. We all have to be under the central government.
CN: We have about 40,000 Christians in Turkey, can’t we get them to move back? What if there was an international plan to get them back and we’ll give them housing and some support and a job?
BY: Will the people accept that? For people who have children, I don’t think so. The only people left in Iraq are the elderly, those who can’t get out and those who don’t have children. And those who have businesses, there’s not many who do, though.
CN: If the Kurdish government developed to repatriate, to bring them back from Turkey, do you think they would come?
BY: Maybe those that are in Turkey will return if they are given houses or support.
CN: Isn’t there hundreds of millions of dollars in a fund to rebuild villages?
BY: To this point, it’s just talk. Through various avenues, i.e., Knight of Columbus, we got $2 million, and with that we repaired Teleskof and Karemlesh.
CN: If you had a meeting with President Trump, what would you request of him?
BY: To rebuild the villages.
CN: How much is needed? Who would administer it? Who should the funding go to and who will do the development?
BY: One hundred million dollars. They can. They can do it all the best way they can because if they give it to the government, it won’t get done, too much corruption. Even the church, there is corruption. Each one will take what they want.
CN: How is the relationship with the other churches? (Assyrian, Orthodox, etc.)
BY: It’s not good. There are too many problems.
CN: Who is handling your political affairs in the United States/Washington?
BY: We don’t have a representative in Washington. We do however call upon people we know have connections and we depend on them.
CN: Why not bring the Patriarch to the United States to meet with high level people to ask for funding, to ask for rebuilding, to ask for all the things you discussed? Why not schedule a meeting?
BY: Prepare and we will come.
CN: Why doesn’t the Patriarch come and meet with the president or vice president? Why not come with specific requests?
BY: Prepare, do something, and I will tell the Patriarch to come. Why not?
CN: Who does he need to meet with?
BY: With the president, if you can. Or vice president. For that, I can guarantee the Patriarch will come.
CN: What can the people in America do to help? The Chaldeans that live here, how can we help?
BY: You can help with the government, with the connections you have.
CN: What if we brought congressmen to Iraq? A group of Christian republican congressmen, they want to visit our church in Iraq.
BY: You can bring a delegation of three or however many congressmen and visit Iraq. We can even set up a meeting with the president or the vice president or prime minister.
CN: Can families here adopt kids that are in the orphanage?
BY: That is a little hard. The Iraqi law does not allow for that.
CN: Can we change that?
BY: It’s hard. They asked me about five years ago when I was here if they could adopt, but the Iraqi law does not allow for it. It was possible before, but not anymore.