2017 has been a year of anxiety, uncertainty and hope for Iraq’s Christians. With Da’esh (ISIS) driven militarily from the north this fall, displaced Christians and others were encouraged to return to their homes on the Nineveh Plains. But enormous challenges face them. A central question has always been whether Christianity has a future in Iraq. It is not for those of us outside Iraq to give our views on the right road for them, but we are called to offer our friendship, strength and spirit to our Iraqi friends who are showing the faith, energy and determination to remain in their historic homeland. Stand with Iraqi Christians will continue to walk hand-in-hand with these friends-wherever the path forward leads-and it’s a good path guided by God’s spirit and the faith of Iraq’s people.
As our good friend Archdeacon Bill Schwartz of the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf wrote recently, ” Christianity’s chances of survival in Iraq rest on whether Christians are willing and able to return to their homelands.”
SWIC is deeply committed to accompanying these Christians on that journey. In November, we were saddened that our planned mission trip to Baghdad and the Nineveh Plains had to be postponed due to Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian anger over the Kurds’ referendum on independence which caused the closure of the Erbil airport. However, we are moving full steam ahead on funding projects with our friends at St. George’s Church (Baghdad) and in the destroyed Nineveh Plains city of Qaraqosh (also known as Bahkdida) in the northern Kurdish portion of Iraq. We plan to visit Iraq this spring.
In his recent report on the Anglican Communion’s commitment to the ministries of the Middle East, Bishop Michael Lewis writes, “For me, [witnessing Christian rebuilding efforts] is a deep reminder of the power of celebration in uniting and building the community in a strongly future orientation.”
SWIC understands that the future of Christians in Iraq is tied inextricably with the reforming of the community relationships in the whole of Iraq- ethnic, sectarian, political and cultural. For now it is essential that SWIC participates in addressing the ongoing crisis and rebuilding efforts, but we are also in it for the long-haul.
Peace and blessings,
Fr. Chris Bishop