Christian leaders in Iraq need your support
When ISIS took control of Mosul, Archbishop Daoud was the last Christian leader to leave the city. He was called by a friend in the Kurdish Regional Government who told him he had 15 minutes to get out. Grabbing a handful of books, he left. He had stayed as long as he possibly could, shepherding his people out of the city. But men in masks were coming for him. In the wake of the ISIS onslaught, he vented his frustration in front of the world’s TV cameras. He accused the international community of abandoning Iraq’s Christians. Four years later, he is still heartbroken by the genocide of his people. As the Syriac Archbishop of Mosul, he presided over one of Christianity’s oldest dioceses. Today, he ministers to his displaced flock in Erbil.
The British government has launched a review into the global persecution of Christians. It is being led by the Bishop of Truro who will deliver recommendations on practical steps the government can make to better support those under threat. Given our connection with Christian leaders in Iraq, we offered to meet with Archbishop Daoud and secure his testimony. Going forward, it is vital that Christian leaders in Iraq are heard. While in Erbil, we also met with Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Catholic Church. As the Archbishop of Erbil, he has been instrumental in helping displaced Christians of all denominations. In 2015, he founded a university where our sister organisation, FRRME America, is supporting some of the students. He will also be submitting his testimony to the review.
A meeting with our Coptic friends
This week I will be meeting with Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church. As many of you will know, Coptic Christians in the Middle East have also suffered at the hands of sectarian extremism. In 2015, ISIS in Libya beheaded 21 Egyptian Copts on a beach. A video of the execution was subsequently released online and shocked the world. Archbishop Angaelos spoke about this at a summit in Washington DC where I first met him. Since then, he has travelled extensively in the Middle East, visiting IDP camps in Kurdistan, and encourages an ecumencial approach to peacebuilding. Given our common ground, I will be exploring opportunities to work with Archbishop Angaelos and his colleagues at our meeting.
Reconciliation in Baghdad
As many of you know, we partner with St George’s Church in Baghdad. This is the only Anglican church in Iraq. As well as being the main funder of the medical clinic there, we also support the ministry of Fr Faiz Jerjees who is Chaplain at the church. Faiz is an indefatigable force for good. Despite risks to his personal safety, he continues to meet with religious leaders from across the sectarian divide. He recently arranged a meeting with representatives from the Shia and Sunni parliamentary camps to discuss the benefits of interfaith dialogue. Yazidi and Mandean leaders were also in attendance. He is one of the few Christian leaders to have met with representatives of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most powerful man in Iraq. It is a testament to Faiz that he is able to facilitate such meetings. He continues to be a hugely important figure in Baghdad and a much-valued colleague.
Please show your support this Easter
Even though we are a UK-based charity, we have a significant impact in peacebuilding initiatives in Iraq. Our priority is to listen to and support those leaders willing to build bridges across sectarian divides. To support our work in Iraq and Jordan, please make a donation via our donate page (there are numerous options for how to donate). Or you can send us a cheque made out to ‘FRRME’ to: FRRME, PO Box 229, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 9DL, United Kingdom.
Thank you for your support,
Mike Simpson, CEO