Lent Week 5: Blessed are the peacemakers

During our recent trip to Iraq we met The Barbers of Baghdad – keep reading to find out who they are…

The Virgin Mary refugee camp in Baghdad is home to Christian families who fled from the north after ISIS attacked. I listened to the tragic stories of the camp’s occupants. They have lost their homes, livelihoods, family members and friends.

A Christian Iraqi MP, Yonadam Kanna, set up the camp on his own land on the outskirts of the capital. Mr Kanna is one of only a handful of Christians in the Iraqi Parliament. I spent an evening talking with him. He is building bridges across religious divides.

The Virgin Mary Refugee Camp, Baghdad

I also spent an afternoon with one of Iraq’s leading Shia clerics, Ayatollah Hussein Al-Sadr. He spoke eloquently about our common humanity and the need to work together to build reconciliation.

But there was another example of peacemaking which might surprise you –

While we were visiting the camp, a group of mainly Muslim barbers arrived. They come each month and cut the hair of the Christian refugees. With good humour and generosity they provide this service to the Christians free of charge. We found this inspiring as an example of practical care for those who have suffered so much under ISIS.

Making peacemaking work

Peacemaking has to go beyond words, in the same way that ‘faith without works is dead’.

We plan to work in northern Iraq to stimulate the economy through practical projects, interest-free business loans, and training programmes. Our aim is to promote business that involves people of different religious groups working together. We also hope to work with Coventry University to conduct PhD research. This would assess how small business enterprise can build community cohesion, inter-faith dialogue, and reconciliation within a post-conflict environment.

Please pray for our reconciliation work in Iraq. It is of course a major challenge, but there is hope as evidenced by ‘The Barbers of Baghdad’!

Mike Simpson, CEO

15th March 2018

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