Go, St George’s !!!

st-georges-football-team

(unfortunately the picture above has some players missing)

Great news! Saint Georges Church gained the first place in a local football tournament among all the Churches in Baghdad. We are the winners! I am so proud of our young people, they give so much effort to be the best.

G-d bless them all.

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad
Andrew

Adel-Toma-Football-trophy

This photo is of Adel Toma, the leader of team, bringing the trophy back to the Church to celebrate it.

Why Iraq?

Well my treatment in Holland has begun. It is hard and rather difficult and all I can do apart from have treatment is rest on my bed. Which means a lot more time to write. So here is todays sample.

Why Iraq?

It is now 14 year since I first started to work in Iraq. Initially in 1998 I was mainly working on issues of reconciliation between the various religious and political leaders and their various equivalents in the West. In the early days I remember very clearly taking them to see Billy Graham in America and the Archbishop of Canterbury in England. At the very heart of my work in Baghdad is the work of reconciliation.

For me this work is very much centered on and in the Middle East. It all began though when I was preparing for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. It began with working on a restoration of a broken relationship between Jews and Christians amongst students at Cambridge that story is told in depth in The Vicar of Baghdad but my real work in reconciliation at an international level began when I was appointed director of the International Centre for Reconciliation in 1998. Here I was heading up one of the foremost centres for reconciliation in the world. The role of Coventry Cathedral in reconciliation is truly exceptional and begun 58 years before I arrived there on the night of the 14th November 1940.

The Second World War was well underway but never to date had a city been completely destroyed. On this night the 14th November 1940 things changed. The City of Coventry in the heart of England was totally destroyed. It gave birth to the term “COVENTRIED” which means to be totally destroyed. Along with Coventry’s destruction was the total obliteration of its medieval Cathedral of St Michael. Named after the Arch Angel and great protector it was no more. Standing in the midst of the smoldering rubble the next morning the Cathedral’s leader at the time Provost Dick Howard took a piece of chalk and wrote on the sanctuary wall “FATHER FORGIVE’.

PEOPLE NOTICED HE WAS WRITING THE WORDS OF OUR LORD FROM THE CROSS. He did not write the words in full though which are “FATHER FORGIVE THEM THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO”. People asked why these words were missing? The answer was simple it was the first line of what would become Coventry’s Litany of Reconciliation. “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of G-d”. We also need to be forgiven said the Provost. In this act he did not realize what he was doing. He was giving birth to one of the foremost ministries of reconciliation in the world today.

The altar of St Michael's Cathedral, CoventryIt was just days later that one of the Cathedral staff standing in the ruins of the Cathedral noticed that amongst the Cathedral rubble were the large medieval nails that had held the roof together. He took three nails and attached together. Thus gave birth to what became known around the world as the Coventry Cross of Nails. Now days all over the world you can find places of reconciliation where the Coventry Cross of Nails is also their symbol. As I go into our own church here in Baghdad there on the altar is the Coventry Cross of Nails in a piece of the bombed stonewall of the Cathedral. Each time I see the cross I remember that reconciliation is about mending that which is broken. Iraq is broken and here we are working at its restoration.

My work in Baghdad is very varied. Despite Iraq not being in the news much now it is still a total and utter war zone. Bomb barricades are everywhere and every few yards on the roads you are faced with military checkpoints.

Apart from being the Anglican Chaplain to Iraq which in reality is being the vicar of St George’s Church in Baghdad. Here the Church includes far more that just church. Within our compound we have one of the largest clinics in Iraq. With four doctors, two dental surgeries, haematology and stem cell units, pharmacy, laboratory and X-ray unit. So this acts as a comprehensive health care centre and all treatment is free. It is very strange often being called to the clinic to insert intravenous lines when they have failed to canulate their patients. This takes me back to my pre ordained life when I worked in the field of anaesthesia – putting in intravenous lines for me is like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it. In addition to this we also have a very modern infants school and a major food relief program to help the many poor of our community, which is both Christians and Muslims.

I am involved in a large number of other Church related things. I am chaplain at the US Embassy and do services at the British Embassy. It is though my non-Christian work that is particularly high profile. It involves working on religious sectarianism. Bringing together those that have traditionally been enemies such as the Sunni and Shia Islamic leader. Though we work with those belonging to many other religious traditions as well. I this capacity I head up the High Council of Religious leaders in Iraq. The sad fact is that religion is very much tied up with violence. As Archbishop William Temple said in World War II “when religion goes wrong, it goes very wrong”. We cannot reject the very real role that religion plays in violence.

The vast majority of violence in Iraq is carried out by people who carry out their terrorism to justify their religious stance. If you examine the position of each group it is clear, they commit the violence because they have a profound sense of loss. The major leader of the of the Sunnis in Iraq who is a great man of peace who I work with continually is Sheikh Khalid. He has often said to me that 80% of the violence is carried out by people of his own tradition. It cannot be denied that the Sunni community has lost the most since the war in 2003. Saddam was a Sunni and since the war it cannot be denied that this group of people have lost a huge amount of money in de Bathification, property, industry, employment, but ultimately they have lost power! Once under Saddam they were the minority political leaders of the nation now it is the majority Shia who rule. They are therefore against the Shia majority and against any who are seen as being part of the warring group who led the war in 2003. This is the Americans, British and any other countries, which are seen as part of the original coalition.

The leaders of this terrorist movement are not even from Iraq, they are mainly from the surrounding Arab Nations and here are simply known as AQI (Al Qaeda Iraq). What they have done is work at getting Sunni Iraqis to support them and carry out much of the work on the ground. What is clear here is that you cannot buy people, you can only hire them. A typical example of this is how AQI got the support of many of the Sunnis living in the predominantly Sunni district of Al Anbar. They were paid by AQI and they provided them the support to carry out the worst of the suicide bombings. Then another group came along who needed them. This group was none other than the US Army who was offering more payment to join a group called the Sons of Iraq, and their job was to work for peace. It was whilst this group was functioning after 2007 that we saw a major fall in violence from its extreme from 2005 to the beginning of 2007. Since the US withdrawal in 2011 we have once again seen a steady increase in violence.

Of particular sadness was the formation of groups such as “the Birds of Paradise” around the Northern town of Kirkuk. This was a group of children aged between 9 and 13. These young children were trained to be suicide bombers because as children they were less likely to have to undergo intense security checks that would expose their evil intent. Have you heard that in recent weeks a new group has been established? This time the group is based in Hilla, the modern town of Babylon. The group called the “Fourth Brigade” is also made up of children but this time they are even younger aged from 7-13. Once again this group appears to be the work of AQI.

The main work of this group has not even begun yet but it is believed thatit will begin very soon after the imminent festival of Eid. Of particular concern this time is that those concerned are supposedly targeting Christians. Iraqi Christians are seen as being linked to the West. The fact is that there have been Christians in Iraq for more years than most other places in the world. It is an acknowledged fact that monotheistic religion began with the arrival of Jonah in Nineveh, followed by the work of the prophet Nahum. The people of this city were the evil Assyrians and they started to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Seven hundred years later somebody else turned up on the way to India – here he is much revered and simply known as Mar Thoma. He asked the people of Nineveh if they knew that the Messiah had come. They said that they did not, he told them and they believed. This man to us in the West is known as Doubting Thomas. To this very day, 2700 years after Jonah, most of the Christians in Iraq and my entire congregation are from the city of Nineveh. To this day they are known simply as the Assyrians, the bad people who became good.

It was on the last day of October in 2010 that everything changed for Christians in Iraq. AQI gunmen broke into the Syrian Catholic Church during a service and killed 59 people. What followed was over 2 months of massacring, killing and torturing of Christians.

For me what begun was intense engagement with the various religious leaders of Iraq. Engagement with the various key religious figures in Iraq. Of paramount importance was the engagement with the Sunni’s. Two weeks after the tragedy Sheik Khalid came and spoke in my church. He expressed his sadness and sorrow about what had happened and assured the people that they were a vital part of Iraq. Intensive negotiations continued to urgently get a meeting together to enable us to move forward condemning all violence towards minorities. It was the Danish Ambassador Gert Meinecle and his government that came to the rescue. By early January we took the various religious leaders to Copenhagen, we were joined by the Sunni and Shia Islamic leaders as well as those from three other minorities the Christians, Yazidees and Mandians.

Day and night we worked on the Fatwa (Islamic Religious Injunction) and Declaration not to permit violence against minorities. All night the Islamic leaders were on the phone making known to their contacts that there was a historic joint Sunni and Shia Fatwa forbidding the killing of minorities. The effect was immediate and very significant as attacks against Christians were stopped immediately.

Sadly a month later an attack killing a Christian family happened in Baghdad. This is what we were informed by the terrorists would indeed happen after a month if we did not discontinue working with the Islamic leaders. The whole way this has worked has just demonstrated how important this work is. The comments have been continuous by the Christians saying how different the situation is now. The vast majority did not know about the one attack in Jihad area of Baghdad where very few Christians live. Despite the Islamic Fatwa many Christians fled Iraq after these attacks.

The Danish meeting was a very quick response to the crisis and it did work in a way we never thought possible. We have continued having high-level meetings of Religious Leaders of Iraq, which are often out of country . But there have also been the development of grass roots work to take the message around the country at a lower level. This is aimed at the lower level Islamic leaders such as imams of local mosques and is based around different areas in Iraq. Whilst this work has been very successful there is now a very real concern as to what will happen now with increased violence and the establishment of groups such as the 4th Brigade in Hilla.

Iraq today is in a total mess. Politically, economically, socially and educationally. It is a land facing one of the greatest levels of corruption in the world. The streets and infrastructure are more than falling to pieces yet Iraq has one of the largest oil reserves in the world.

One area of particular concern is the continued large number of Iraqis claiming asylum overseas particularly amongst Christians. The position amongst all the religious leaders on this is clear as they are all against any of their people leaving Iraq. Are they at risk? Yes everybody is but this nation will never be restored if all the good people leave. However there are real concerns about people with children being made to return when they have spent most of their life out or Iraq. The possibility of those children being able to resettle here is very remote.

Iraq continues in a state of war. As a Christian leader in Iraq we do not want our people to leave. Thousands have fled to Kurdistan in the safe North of Iraq. Many more have recently fled to Turkey. The surrounding turmoil in places like Syria has just added to the pain of Iraq. Many from here had sought refuge in Syria but many have now returned and are living in refugee camps at the boarders. Yonadam Kanna, the main Christian political leader in Iraq, says “if the Christians all leave this land the root is removed and the tree dies”.

Christians are indeed the root of this land!

Blessings

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad

Andrew

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Update from David Post after completing the “Long Bike Ride”

Yes, it’s me, David Post, safely home at last – spot on time, 6.00pm Saturday June 30th. I want first to thank you all for your prayers and encouragement as you have been following my route on the map. Knowing that you were all rooting for me gave me greater incentive to complete the course.

It has been a fantastically enjoyable, challenging and satisfying journey, and I am so thankful that this time I have been free of the polymyalgia which hampered me so much before. I have been able to sleep well each and every night – a great blessing indeed – and the Rest Days I built into the programme have been extremely beneficial.

In the coming weeks I am hoping to write another booklet, giving a full account of my experiences on this bike ride. But for now here is a summary of my reflections a few days after completing it.

Delights

Personal health and fitness, as mentioned above, has been fundamental, and I have been constantly thanking the Lord on the way round that I was able to keep cycling without night-time pain.

Then it has been such a pleasure to link up with a number of friends who at several points gave me their gracious and welcome hospitality – including Dr. Robert and Mrs. Margaret Jordan in Northern Ireland, 47 years since we last met.

All the way round I have met and talked with people who showed great interest in my ride. Our conversations usually began with “Where have you come from, and where are you going to next?” After answering those questions about me and my bike ride, the next question “Why?” opened the way to telling them as much as possible about the wonderful Christians of St. George’s Baghdad, the food-aid programme, and the free medical and dental treatment given to all who come to the clinic irrespective of their religion or politics. All this work is funded from private donations only, which is the reason for my sponsored bike ride. I also tell them of Canon Andrew White’s amazingly effective peace-making work. Some of them have given me a donation there and then, but many have taken my leaflets with details for giving on-line. Sometimes the conversation has then moved on to questions about the joyful faith of St. George’s Christians, who have suffered so tragically and constantly face danger. I have then been able to explain that true Christian faith is not merely head knowledge about Jesus, but rather heart experience of knowing Jesus Himself with us and within us.

Besides these individual conversations, I have also had opportunity to give talks, both about the bike ride and about St. George’s, briefly at St. Martin’s Drumbeg in Northern Ireland, more fully at a Home Meeting at Philip and Judith Jenning’s house in Ripon, at a Coffee Evening at my former parish of Wheldrake near York, and finally at a Welcome Home gathering at my home Church Middle Rasen. At all of these I have been warmly and generously received, which has given me great joy.

Difficulties

The constant north-east winds, which have persisted all this year in Scotland, they tell me, were generally against me all the way to the north of Shetland; but I didn’t complain in prayer this time, and my new Dawes Vantage bicycle seemed to cope better with head winds.

Parts of the Cycle Route 1 which I was following make use of old railway tracks. Some parts of these have been surfaced with tarmac, but others are just hard-core. The old track between Scarborough and Whitby is particularly badly eroded and took me much longer than I had expected.

I didn’t find it easy following the trail in cities like Middlesborough, and in Stockton I missed a vital sign pointing right and got hopelessly lost. People gave me differing advice, and I realised how lost I was when I passed the same Snacks Van as I had passed an hour earlier!

Diversions

At a B.&B. in Lairg on June 7th, I heard the weather forecast – very strong north-north-easterly winds and torrential rain for the next day. I had planned to do 80 miles that day, half of it due north to Tongue, then the rest eastward to Thurso. I was very anxious that on that second stretch the gale would be blowing me into the traffic, so instead I took the train from Lairg to Thurso.

By the time I reached Durness SY Hostel, my back tyre was badly worn down with carrying the full weight of the panniers as well as me, so Nick, a fellow hostelling cyclist, changed the better front tyre to the back and the worn one to the front. He advised me to get a new tyre fitted when I reached Oban. So realising that the ferry from Lochboisdale to Oban, arriving at 14.05, would not leave me time to change my tyre, do a few other things in Oban, and then cycle 80 miles to Dunoon, I cancelled that booking, and instead took the 18.11 Oban to Glasgow train, booked in at Adelaides (Baptist Church B.&B.) in Glasgow, then the Glasgow to Stranraer train, in order to catch a ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast, and thus be on schedule to spend the weekend with my “long-lost” friends at Drumbeg. These two diversions resulted in my final total of cycling miles being 1,900 – a little less than planned.

Challenges

Of course the many long or steep hills of Scotland and the Pennines are always challenging. But undoubtedly the greatest challenge was to pedal up the long hill on Hirta, St. Kilda, from sea level to the radar station at the top of the mountain. I nearly shirked it, but Angus Mackay of Kilda Cruises encouraged me to have a go at it, assuring me that the track was surfaced with tarmac, not rough hardcore. They had told me it is the steepest hill in the whole of the UK. I laughed, thinking they were just having me on. But now I believe them!! It was the most difficult hill I have ever tackled. However, I did manage to pedal all the way up, but with umpteen stops for breath.

I knew the ride on Wednesday June 7th from Kirtlebridge to Ripon, 115 miles crossing the Pennines, to arrive in time to speak at my friends’ Home Meeting, would be a tough call. But by the time I reached Richmond at 6.45pm after 90miles, with 25 hilly miles still to go, I had little hope of getting there before the end of the meeting. But as I was racing past the Station Hotel in Richmond, I heard a shout, “Dad! Dad!!”

I looked round , and there was my daughter Helen, with the car – and the family puppy, Lily. Sensing that I might be in some difficulty, she had conspired with my friends, Judith and Philip, to intercept me and get me to the meeting in time. I need hardly say that I did not refuse her kind and caring offer. It was such a surprise and delight to see her there – and Lily, who went ballistic at seeing me after five weeks away! So I was after all able to speak at the Home Meeting, where I was very warmly received. After a further rest day, it was a short ride to my former parish, Wheldrake, near York, where I enjoyed another warm reception to speak at a Coffee Evening. Then after arriving home the following evening and enjoying a family reunion supper, the next day, Sunday, I took two Communion services in the morning, and then in the afternoon at a Welcome Home Spotlight Tea I gave a hastily prepared talk about the bike ride illustrated with some of my photographs. Sounds like “business as usual” – immediately!

That’s all for now, friends. I’ll tell you how the giving’s going in two weeks or so.

DCWP

You can still make a donation through David’s fundraising page on Just Giving.  We are so grateful to David and to everyone that has supported him in prayer and financially.  Thank you!

The last stretch – update on David’s Long Bike Ride

David Post’s daughter Helen has sent us this update on his cycling marathon as he starts his final leg back home today (30 June)…

David Post Cycle Ride

Just a quick update: I intercepted Dad in Richmond, just north of Catterick Garrison in Yorkshire on Wednesday when I had a hunch he would be exhausted after his 90 mile ride thus far. I knew he wanted make it to Ripon for the 7.30 pm house group meeting at some friends to share his story. He arrived in Richmond at 7 pm, 25 miles and at least 6 huge hills away from Ripon. I had to shout to stop him though – he came whizzing down the hill at breakneck speed! He was so surprised to see me, and our puppy, accompanying me for the day out, couldn’t contain herself – she wrapped him up in her lead in case he tried to escape! Putting the bike and Dad’s luggage in the back of the car, we made it to the meeting for 8 pm. Dad then stayed in Ripon for two nights before cycling on to Wheldrake to spend his last night away from home with friends on Friday. He aims to arrive back in Middle Rasen by 6 pm on Saturday, then straight back to work on Sunday morning preaching.

Thanks to all who have supported him along the way – there will be more gratitude and further details on the blog by Tuesday. Thank you for all your encouragement. We all hope this venture has raised many funds and much awareness.

Every blessing

Helen


You can still make a donation to FRRME and show your support for David’s wonderful efforts by going straight to David’s fundraising page on JustGiving.

News from David on “the long bike ride”

Update on the long bike rideDear Friends at FRRME,

I thought I would just drop you a note to thank you all for your prayers, and to let you know that these first 3 weeks of the bike ride have been going well. I had head wind most of the way up north, especially the last day from Lerwick to Saxa Vord at the northernmost part of the Shetland. It was very strong, and I was really shattered by the time I arrived. I was really glad of the rest day the next day.

Now I am at Durness, with just two weeks to go, a bit tired, but still enjoying it – especially as the wind is now generally behind me. The day I returned from SV to Lerwick was marvellous – I’ve never done so much freewheeling in one day before! It made such a change from having to pedal downhill!

I’ve been giving out my leaflets (and yours) about St George’s to many people, including some from America, Germany, Switzerland and Australia, as well as the UK. A number of them have said they would photocopy my leaflet/letter and pass it round their friends or churches. So I hope you will find this results in many donations coming in.

I hope all is going well with you, and of course all at St George’s.

Every blessing and love to you all

David Post

“The Long Bike Ride”

david-post-long-bike-ride-for-st-georges-church-baghdad

Retired vicar David Post started his “Long Bike Ride” around the Hebrides and Northern Ireland (from his home in Market Rasen) to raise money for St George’s Church and Clinic on 24 May.

David’s family have started a blog about the ride and we encourage you to visit http://bike4baghdad.tumblr.com/ to stay up to date with David’s progress. Please visit the blog and add your support for this amazing effort.

You can make a donation to FRRME and show your support for David’s wonderful efforts by going straight to David’s fundraising page on JustGiving.

We will keep you up to date as we hear from David and his family.

 

The three P’s

Inside St George's Church in Baghdad, Iraq

Provision

We have to provide people with so much food, health care, education and much more. We never know where our support will come from each month but our Lord always provides what we need. Please pray that we may be able to continue to meet these many needs.

The most important thing that we provide is the love of the Almighty. Our most important evangelistic tool continues to be our medical and dental clinic. People receive free treatment and then come to church. We now have so many Muslims in the church that our overflow room cannot any longer hold all of them. We pray that the Lord will provide a way for us to be able to afford air-conditioning for the room. It is now 45C but it will reach 60 by mid summer.

We continue to see our needs in terms of three P’s

  • Protection
  • Provision
  • Perseverance

Protection

Though there is very little media coverage about what continues to happen here we continue to be under regular attack, people are killed every day and bombs continually explode. Regularly our people are wounded and killed not because they are targeted but because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our church is surrounded by bomb barricades, and military security barriers. To enter it is to enter the heart of a war zone.

We thank G-d that despite all these difficulties G-d has provided us in our complex with security and so many of our soldiers have come to know Jesus.

Perseverance

It is a miracle that the Lord has enabled us not just to continue in this ministry but to love it. Please pray that no longer will the remaining Christians want to flee the county, but that the lord will enable them to stay and persevere.

Blessings from Baghdad,
Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad

Andrew

Please consider making a donation to support our work.

 

David Post rides for St George’s – again!

Retired vicar David Post rides again for St George's Baghdad in 2012

David on his bike during his 2010 ride

Last year David Post, retired vicar from Market Rasen, raised an amazing £11,219 through a sponsored cycle ride from Lands End to John O’Groats from his home in Middle Rasen in Lincolnshire. We were so blessed with David’s ambition and enthusiasm and are pleased (and somewhat shocked!) that David wants to tackle another mammoth journey this year. He is planning to cycle from Lincolnshire to the Shetland Islands, round the Outer Hebrides and back down to his home in the village of Middle Rasen – a breath-taking 2,000 miles.

David himself says ‘ Yes, I know! I said “Never again!” – after my Middle Rasen to Land’s End to John O’Groats and back to Middle Rasen bike ride in 2010 had to be cut short on the way back at Inverness. But you know how it is! You recover. You start cycling again, and before long, your mind gets planning again, and – well, that’s what happened to me.

The urge to support the continuing need at St. George’s, Baghdad is as strong as ever, and I feel ready to have a crack at something as long, but different. So this time my target will be £12,000. It is a huge amount to raise. But I believe we can reach it!

The route for David Post's 2012 bike ride for St George's

David's 2012 route

I would particularly appreciate your prayers for me every day of my journey, for my safety and health, and perseverance to keep going when it’s really tough, and that I may be able to tell people about St.George’s. The map in this post shows you where I should be each night. ‘

If you would like to sponsor David you can do so by sending a cheque made payable to FRRME (David Post’s Bike-ride) us at PO Box 229, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 9DL in the UK – or you can donate via PayPal by simply clicking the PayPal button below and then email us to let us know that your donation is to be counted towards David’s total.

Good luck David!

Click on the button to make a donation NOW

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