Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr shakes hands with Mike Simpson, CEO of FRRME

Meeting with Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr

As one of Iraq’s most senior Shia clerics, he suffered torture under Saddam Hussein. Despite this, Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr is still smiling. His warmth shines through. When we met him during our recent trip to Baghdad, he spoke of our common humanity and the need for reconciliation. In a country torn apart by revenge, al-Sadr’s gentleness is humbling. Reconciliation in the Middle East was also at the heart of Pope Francis’ Easter message. It is a sentiment also shared by the congregation at St George’s in Baghdad.

A short clip of a Sunday service at St George's Church in Baghdad

The only Anglican Church in Iraq

There is a dignity and solemnity about St George’s which is hard to describe. The congregation is beleaguered by sectarian violence. Even the journey to the church is fraught with danger. Christians are under threat in Baghdad from the terrorists who want to drive them from the country. That is why there are armed guards outside every service at St George’s. And yet, every Sunday the pews are full. During Lent, we shared daily prayer requests from the congregation on our Facebook and Twitter pages. The last of them concluded: “I do not want to be exiled in the graves and dust of another country. I hope that Jesus Christ will always be with us.”

The illuminated cross of St George's Church, Baghdad

Hope for the future

To grow old in your own country is a simple wish. In the West, such a thing is self-evident. Yet many Iraqis fear that violence will drive them from their ancestral homeland. While the news is often bleak (there was another bombing in Baghdad just this week), many have talked to us of their hope for a better future. Whether a Shia cleric or a Christian celebrating the first Easter since the defeat of ISIS on the battlefield, the majority want peace. We must believe, as they do, that this is possible. Please share this newsletter by clicking here.

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