Our prayers should be for everyone in Iraq and Syria!
Last week, I attended the General Synod of the C of E for the final part of the Women Bishops saga. Thank goodness that is behind us! Although I sometimes ask myself what I am doing in that impressive chamber in Church House, it is times like Tuesday morning that make it all worthwhile.
I listened to a panel discussion about Iraq and Syria between an imam (the first time a Muslim had ever addressed Synod), a bishop from the Coptic Church (Egypt based), an Anglican aid worker and the Bishop of Leeds who has recently been pushing our Government to do more for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
Although I spent nearly 10 years working in the Middle East, such discussions just reinforce the complexities of the region. To share just a few learnings:
- The Islamic world is as shocked as we are about what is going on with IS
- Whereas Christians were the target of IS, now the Sunni Moslem communities are experiencing the same atrocities. If someone refuses to join IS, they are beheaded or even worse, their children are killed.
- Christian and Islamic leaders are working together for peace.
It was so encouraging to see leaders of the Coptic Church and Islam sharing a platform for peace and it was equally encouraging to see our own Archbishop and an Islamic leader clearly working together. The message was clear: mutual respect and love will be the basis peace in those countries and the wider Middle East.
On Friday, I was equally encouraged to listen to Canon Andrew White (‘the vicar of Baghdad’) speaking in Wareham. He has spent years working for reconciliation in Iraq and is now based in Israel and working for reconciliation between Jew and Palestinian. Although he shared a number of shocking stories about the plight of both Christian and Moslem, there are two key messages I took away:
- As Christians, we should not be taking sides but should be praying for all parties, for peace and reconciliation.
- A quote from Henry Longfellow: our enemy is the person whose story we have never heard.
According to Andrew White, this quote underpins all successful reconciliation. Indeed, we all have a story that probably drives our own behaviour.
I finished the week feeling that there is hope for the Middle East and that as we move into Advent, this is the time to share our real hope. Let’s continue to pray for peace and reconciliation, and expect it!