It’s a long update this week, but we think very important.
Hopefully you will have time to read it.

Some of the St George’s Clinic team

The challenging context of the work at St George’s in Baghdad

The Coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll in lives and livelihoods across most of the world. In Iraq the official numbers are lower than many countries, but are now rising rapidly. Last week the daily confirmed cases doubled. It seems clear that in a number of countries, the actual figures could be dramatically higher due to insufficient testing capabilities or under-reporting. Some political figures in Iraq are warning of the consequences of what they see as the government’s slow and inadequate response to the pandemic. 

Last week, Baghdad Governor Jaber Al Ata said the pandemic was spreading rapidly in the capital. He expressed alarm that Baghdad hospitals would soon be unable to cope because the public was not adhering to the rules. 

The world faces a severe economic recession. In the Middle East there is the added nightmare of the collapse in oil prices. The Iraqi government was already struggling with protests and conflicts since last autumn. 

In the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, Masrour Barzani, the Prime Minister of the regional government (the KRG) said his government faces $27 billion in debt, attributing most of it to Baghdad’s policy to withhold the KRG share of the budget which derives from oil revenues. 

Then there is the ever-present threat of terrorism and sectarian conflict. 

This is the context in which St George’s in Baghdad is operating!

Above: a mother and her son with a Doctor at the Clinic on 30th April this year

Health Crisis, Economic Crisis, Political Crisis – in all circumstances love is the guide for the work of St George’s in Baghdad…

We are the main funders of the medical clinic at St George’s in Baghdad. Last year the average number of patient visits was 1,825 per month (up from 1,452 in 2018). It is a FREE clinic and so is greatly valued by local people. This year has been a real challenge to keep serving the poor of Baghdad. 

Anti-government protests in Baghdad began months ago, before the pandemic. Hundreds were killed. The city was not safe to travel across and patient numbers at the clinic reduced. Nevertheless, there were still 1,401 patient visits in January, 1,429 in February and 1,310 in March. Then came the virus and a series of curfews which prevented the clinic from operating and people getting to it. In April it was closed except for 5 days. Then another curfew began last week. We ask for your prayers that the government will allow people to get to the clinic and that staff can operate there safely.

Above: a girl patient at the clinic on 30th April 2020

Rev’d Canon Faez Jirjees of St George’s was able to lead the service there a month ago on Easter Sunday. There was however only a small section of the 300 strong congregation, because of the curfew and health restrictions imposed there. Thankfully they were able to film the service and so many of the other members of the church were able to view it from home.

The service can be viewed by you by clicking on this link and playing the video on YouTube.

We have provided an English translation for our supporters. If you email us at admin@frrme.org we will send the long version. Here is an excerpt:

“What we want to say in this message is that we were not really present on that day in order to see the resurrection with the naked eye, but we have something stronger than this which we see with the naked eye – we live the resurrection. We believe in the resurrection of our saviour the Lord Jesus and Christianity would not make sense if there was no resurrection. The Lord Jesus is in everyone’s life in us. Christ came, was crucified, died, and rose on the third day, not only for us but for mankind and for the sake of all of the people, and this is what we believe in. We pray that peace and security prevail in this country. We pray for the end of this pandemic, not only in Iraq alone, but throughout the world.”

(All the work of St George’s comes under the auspices of the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf)

Our Response to the Virus

St George’s remains an ‘oasis of grace’ in these challenging times for Iraq. We stand with them to enable their life-giving work for those in need. In all we do our ambition is to bring ‘hope, help and healing in the Middle East’

Mike Simpson