Last night I received this email from Belhaven’s friend, Canon Andrew White, the pastor of St. George’s Church in Baghdad – he lives in London, England. He spoke for our Day of Learning two years ago. He is a key leader in the Middle East peace process, both in Iraq and in other conflicts, including guiding the bringing together of the Alexandria Accord. Please be praying specifically for Andrew and his congregation (they were featured on 60 minutes recently)
We thought it could not get worse, it has.
We watched last year in Dura south of Baghdad as the Christians were persecuted, killed and massacred. Many fled Baghdad and they went to the safe area of Nineveh in the heart of Mosul. The place they fled to is the heart of the Christian community. In recent days it all went wrong. The Christians have again been targeted, killed and massacred. This time not in Baghdad, but in the heart of the Christian area of Nineveh. Last Sunday in Church I asked our people how many of them were from Nineveh and about 80% said they were. The homeland of hundreds of our people.
I just spoke to our churchwarden his nephew and his father had just been shot dead outside their house in Nineveh. The nephew Alhassan was due to be engaged on Friday. As I left church yesterday I was phoned again by church members they had just heard that their family home in Nineveh had been totally blown up. There were now 7 people without a home in need of help. All these people need help, all of these people expect me to do something and I will. These are our people and we must stand with them. Can you imagine this kind of thing happening in England? Well the fact is these are still our people. They too are our family and they need love and support.
The fact that Christians are now being attacked in the heartland of Christianity is very significant. This is the place where the people have believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for 2700 years since the miserable evangelist turned up by submarine transportation. 700 hundred years later another miserable person turned up on his way to India. It was doubting Thomas. He told them that their messiah had arrived down the road in Israel the people believed and until today Nineveh is still Christian. The longest standing Christian place in the world. To this day the most revered people here in Iraq by the Christians are Jonah and Mar Thoma (St Thomas). These are our brothers and sisters and we must not forget them. St Georges Anglican Church Baghdad is now the largest church in Iraq with nearly 2000 members.
None of our people are traditionally Anglican but now in the midst of trauma denominations do not matter, all that matters is that that we believe in Jesus. In the last service I told our people what I regularly tell them. “There are no guarantees that we will not be killed this week, but there is one guarantee that when we see Jesus we will be like him”. At this the people always cheer.
We cannot deny the success of the Surge; violence is still down in Baghdad. The sad reality is though that many of the terrorist groups like Al Qaida have moved north to places like Mosul. Who is responsible for the violence is still not clear. There is agreement that the violence is Sunni some say it is Al Qaida types other are placing the blame on the Kurds. This seems quite unlikely as many of the Christians have now escaped Nineveh / Mosul and are seeking refuge in Kurdistan. Added to these many problems and dangers that the Christians are facing there has also been the recent dismissal of the parliament to allow minorities to have representation reserved in the regional governments. So life is very hard at this time for the remaining Christians in Iraq. The majority of this minority have already fled. Those left are the ones who can’t afford to leave or are refusing to.
In the midst of this crisis the Multi National Forces in Iraq are seriously considering what they can do. The Iraqi Government has already seconded 1000 police and military forces to the area. In the midst of this crisis once again the only solution appears to be to overcome the violence by force. As people of peace this may not be the solution we like but there appears to be no other option, the people committing this violence will not talk to you, they will not engage and look for other solutions. As far as they are concerned they are killing the infidels who they wrongly believe are aligned to the west and the coalition.
Meanwhile back at church we simply keep loving and serving. We now have a clinic at the church with three doctors, three Dentists and a pharmacy. Everything we do is totally free and most of our patients are not Christian but Muslim. We have no plans to stop serving all people and the one thing we say as a church is we will never stop doing is loving, loving and loving. The threat returns, the violence is real but by the grace of God will keep going.