Ten years ago forces pushed into Iraq in the war that was to liberated the people from the oppressive rule of Saddam Hussein. At least 116,000 people have been killed over these ten years. For many, however, the consequences are a lifetime of learning to live with the the injuries they suffered.
This week the BBC featured the story of one young woman who lost a leg during an air-raid in 2003. You can read Marwan’s story here. Marwan’s story is a reminder that innocent people have suffered, under the regime of Sadam Hussein and in the years that have followed his ouster. Lives have been changed forever, but not often by an encounter with Jesus Christ.
In a context of such violence and risk, the Church has also been suffering. According to a 1987 census there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq; today, estimates suggest that there are less than 400,000. Instability and the fear of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism are two of the reasons behind this exodus.
But then there is the story of ministry in the midst of this troubled land. Canon Andrew White, Vicar of St George’s Church – exposed in the heart of Baghdad’s Red Zone, leads a ministry of relief and reconciliation that brings hope for the future. The focus of the work of St George’s is providing a spiritual home, medical care and humanitarian relief as well as promoting reconciliation amongst different religious groups.
In his blog on 18 February, Canon White wrote: If I were to sum up this past weekend it has indeed been a time of intense suffering and glory. There have been moments when I have felt so ill physically and so emotionally down that I have very unusually wondered how I could go on. Then the bombings have been so terrible 10 on Saturday morning alone. Scores killed and hundreds injured. The media rarely reports what is happening here now because it is such old news. In the midst of all this we have our services. In the US Embassy on Saturday morning we had our usual time of prayer requests and thanksgiving. My Iraqi adopted daughter Lina spoke up saying. “I just want to thank G-d that He has provided for me so much that I literally need nothing”. Lina was saying this living in the midst of war and terror.
The many Marwan’s in Iraq need our prayers as they rebuild their lives, desperately in need of Jesus; the Christian’s and Church in Iraq need our prayers as they live with the fears and uncertainties of this changing country; Workers, including Canon Andrew White and the people of St George’s Church, need our prayers as they live light and salt in such overwhelming darkness.