Sunday, 8 April 2007


In the Mail on Sunday today, a piece by Andrew White, the Anglican Vicar of St George's, Baghdad, who left his position at Coventry Cathedral to minister to the embattled Christians of Baghdad:
I know I have the best parish in the world. Yes, it is rather different from most, but it is wonderful.

My journey to church is unlike that of any other vicar. I leave my mobile home wearing my body armour and armoured helmet.

My bodyguards surround me as I climb into an armoured vehicle. We drive through the International Zone through army checkpoints and finally into the ordinary streets.

Five minutes later, we are at the church, protected by razor wire and bomb barricades. Special Forces will have surrounded the building, cutting off the road.

My security team search the area and ensure, with our church guards' help, that there are no unknown people inside.

They give me the all-clear and at last I can go into my church: St George's, Baghdad.

Many people have called it the most dangerous in the world, but I beg to differ. For this Easter Sunday when I cry out in Arabic, Alleluia Al Masiah Kahm! (Alleluia, Christ is risen!) the people will reply, Kahma Beltakid, Alleluia! (He is risen indeed, Alleluia!).

It is a message of peace and hope, and they will mean it.


Our congregation is all Iraqi, though not Anglican. There have been Christians in Iraq from almost the beginning of the faith.

This is where Jonah preached after escaping the belly of the whale and where doubting Thomas stopped on his way to India.

To this day, the greatest saints here are Jonah and Thomas and many of the Christians still come from Nineveh (today called Mosul). We have Chaldeans, Syrian Orthodox and Assyrian Christians.

Coming to church is dangerous - some of my parishioners have been killed on their way. Each week I hear terrible stories: friends killed at the market, work places blown up, death threats to members of my congregation because they are Christians.

Last month, a member of my own staff was unable to get his pregnant wife to hospital because there were so many checkpoints. She gave birth in the car.

Christians, like all others in Iraq, are constantly under attack, but they do not give up their faith. It is the thing that gives them hope in all the chaos. The persecution they suffer is sadly increasing continually, yet our congregation is 1,300-strong.


I see the same belief among my other congregation at the American Embassy. There, most of the congregation are from the military. Beside them on the floor are their body armour and their guns, but for them, too, the truth remains that 'because He lives, they can face tomorrow'.

Each death in Iraq is terrible. But today, our own little church will ring to the rafters with words and hymns of hope and transformation.

And that is a message for every day, not just for Easter.

Something to think about.

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