The price of reconciliation
How much does reconciliation in Iraq cost? For our supporters, it might mean a monthly donation (for which we are very grateful). For Faiz Jerjees, Chaplain of St George’s Church in Baghdad, it could cost him his life. We haven’t always been able to share the work of this extraordinary man. He is so humble that he barely mentions it. There is also the threat of sectarian violence to think of. A few years ago, St George’s was targeted by suicide bombers. Faiz survived this attack but a number of people were killed.
Faiz teaches reconciliation at a local university. This is more dangerous than it sounds. On Christmas Eve, the highest Sunni authority in Iraq issued a fatwa forbidding his followers to “congratulate Christians during Christmas” or participate in New Year celebrations. Faiz could counter such statements from the relative security of his church, which is protected by armed guards. Instead, he insists on meeting people in person. His lectures at the university focus on peace-building and he encourages the students there to conquer their own prejudices.
Practising what is preached
It isn’t just rhetoric – Faiz practices what he preaches. Despite the risks, he has set up a school in the grounds of St George’s which educates both Christian and Muslim children. Faiz is also closely involved with St George’s Clinic which employs both Muslim and Christian staff and treats people regardless of gender, age or faith. Amid growing sectarianism, it is difficult to find another example of this in Iraq. Perhaps this is why the Iraqi Government has twice honoured Faiz for his human rights and reconciliation work.
Faiz is coming to the UK
The last time Faiz visited the UK was in 2011. During that trip he met with the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. We are working very hard to secure a visa for Faiz to come to the UK in spring this year. Subject to visa approval, which can be difficult, we hope he will be able to meet with Justin Welby and other religious leaders. We also hope that he will be able to meet with decision-makers in Whitehall and Parliament to secure more support for Iraqi Christians. The plan would be for him to also preach in two or three churches in the UK. We will of course keep our supporters posted as to the details of this trip.
Supporting our work in the Middle East
To support St George’s and our work in Iraq and Jordan helping displaced and persecuted Christians and other minorities, please make a donation now 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. To support our future work, please consider leaving a legacy (more info here). Thank you.
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