PARIS - A high-profile Iraqi cleric says the best way to help his countrymen is at home, rather than pouring money into refugee programs overseas.
Kirkuk's Archbishop Yousif Mirkis, who is visiting France, called Tuesday for an initiative for Iraq similar to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II. He said the the effort and money Western countries spend in taking in refugees would be more wisely targeted in Iraq, channeled into private projects such as building hospitals.
The Chaldean Catholic archbishop is visiting France to spread awareness about the situation in his homeland and to raise funds for an interfaith educational project targeting young Iraqis that he has set up in Kirkuk.
Iraq's Christian population has been plummeting for more than a decade. Thousands have fled the country since 2014, with the rise of the Islamic State group.
But Mirkis believes staying and resisting is the better path. He described the dynamism Iraqi Christians have traditionally contributed to the economy of their country, where many had dominated the engineering and medical fields.
Mirkis spoke of how one Iraqi medical student turned down a visa to France. There are many others like her, he said — youngsters who have decided to stay and build their future in Iraq.