Whom do you seek?
He is not here.
For he is risen (on WordPress), as he said.
The Massacre of all continues. We are now in Erbil supporting to various church leaders here. The Yazidis have now come under huge attack. This group is similar to the Zoroastrians and at the best of times they are a discriminated and despised minority. What we have heard from some of the Church leaders is more than horrendous. Just like last week a felt I could not show the pictures so today I fell I cannot tell the whole story especially about the children.Our neighbour is the one who has need. Our brother is the one who helps us to meet that need - in this instance, caring for the poor and the dying. Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, writes:
Now they head toward Erbil. This is supposed to be the one safe area in Iraq but yesterday evening the whole of Erbil went into total panic with news that ISIS was moving towards Erbil. It is not here yet but it may indeed be on its way. Meanwhile over a hundred people where killed in Baghdad last night.
There is one other person here doing what we are doing with his wife. Dr Plumb and his wife Peggy are both in their late 70's, they are Mormons have been here several months using all their own money. He is our closest friend here. All the time people say to me how can you work with a Mormon. Well he is the only other person here doing the work of Jesus caring for the poor and the dying and we love each other.
..speeches are good for nothing, so too declarations that rehash condemnations and indignation; the same can be said for protest marches. In addition, while appreciating the generosity of our donors, we would say that donations and fundraising too are not what will solve our problems. We have to demand a large-scale administrative [governmental] operation on an international level. There is in fact the need for awareness, in conscience, regarding this simple human principle: the demand for real actions and solidarity because we are before a crisis related to our very existence, facing the fact that "we will be or we will not be."There is the heartfelt plea: "..the need for awareness, in conscience, regarding this simple human principle: the demand for real actions and solidarity because we are before a crisis related to our very existence.."
This is an appeal from the bottom of the heart in the search for a solution that lies uniquely in the hands of the international community and above all with the great powers. We address ourselves profoundly to their consciences and that they should review their positions and to re-evaluate the impact of the situation of today.
These powers face a human and moral responsibility. It is no longer reasonable to take recourse to double standards. They are called to free themselves from their narrow interests and to unite themselves in a political and peacekeeping solution that puts an end to this conflict. These powers must vigorously exercise pressure on those who support financially and train militarily these factions and so cut short these sources of violence and radicalisation.
Concerning the Christians of Iraq, in our pastoral ministry towards them, we also call upon the international community: our Christians are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, as too they are in need of an efficient, true and permanent protection that reassures them that there is no end to their existence, whose origins are so deeply rooted in Iraq; this also concerns Christians in other regions of the Middle East that are burning and being torn apart.
We also appeal to our brothers and sisters around the world, that they too be truly with us in solidarity at this our time of suffering this terrible ordeal; that they live with us this feeling of solidarity as if belonging to the same family.
I can’t express how immensely encouraged I am by the huge amount of support we have received here for the persecuted Christians here in Iraq. People have prayed and sacrificially given. They have enabled us to at least begin to meet the crucial needs of the people. Dr Sarah and I have been working flat out on meeting these needs but we have to have more help and I pray that today we will find the help we need. Today I will head North to Kurdistan where Sarah is at the moment.This is an encouraging epistle, the most notable sentence being the final one. But the media have not entirely forgotten: the Christian media are well informed. And even if Channel 4 News is consumed by Gaza and busy lauding the bravery of Baroness Warsi, the BBC is slowly waking up to the horrors being inflicted upon Christians by the self-styled Islamic State.
Helping Through The Iraqi Churches
The main way we are helping the massive numbers of internally displaced people is through the various indigenous churches. The different denominations know which of their people need help, and who they have who have fled Mosul and Nineveh. The money is received through our Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) and given through our one Anglican Church in Iraq. So the help is given from Church to Church. The Foundation is a 501C3 in the US and a registered charity in the UK. So people can give in tax beneficial ways.
Daily information is provided through Face Book and on less regular email updates sent about twice a week. My personal face book page is full as I have 5000 friends and am thus not allowed anymore. I do however have a popular figure page that you can like and get regular updates there.
The message to those who want to be friends:
I would very much love to have you as a friend but I am afraid I have reached the limit of 5000 friends on my page there are two public figure pages that you can join that get my same updates. You can also sign up for my regular updates at www.frrme.org .Please do join one of these pages. These pages are:
Together We Have Hope
Everything maybe awful but we have such hope. HOPE because we are not alone the support from our friends around the world has simply been phenomenal. The governments and media of the world may have forgotten us but the people of G-d are with us Jews, Christians and Muslims the people who know that the Lord is here and His Spirit is with us.
With love thanks and blessings,
Islamic Sunni Leader totally Condemns ISISAnd it must be observed that the Islamic State is not only persecuting Christians, but also Shia, Turkmen, Shabaks, Yazidis and others.
I have spent much of the day with one Iraq's most senior Sunni Imams Sheik Khalid Al Mullah he has openly and clearly spoken out against the evil events, massacres and slaughters committed by ISIS. He not only stated they were totally demonic he said they were totally against everything Islam stands for. He stated that Christianity was the very root of Iraqi society, therefore Christians are at the heart of Iraqi society. We went to see the US Ambassador together and the Sheik was able to share these points with him.
Then you [the Jews] answered and said to me [Moses], we have sinned against G-d; we will go up and fight, as the Lord our G-d commanded us. And when you donned your armour, you made light of going up into the hill country.His Grace was sent this exposition yesterday (by a Jewish communicant [before the onset of the Sabbath]):
And G-d said to me: say to them. Neither go up, nor fight, lest you be struck down by your enemies; because I am not in your midst.
So I spoke to you; but you would not listen, rebelling against the commandment of G-d, presumptuously going up into the hill country.
And the Emorites, which dwelt in that hill country, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you from Seir, as far as Chormah.
The early mediæval Rabbinic commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, universally known by the acronym “Rashi”, explains that just as bees die immediately after stinging, so did the Emorites die following their attacks on the Jews. Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik (1886-1959) asks the question: "Why does the Bible inform us (indirectly) what happened to the Emorites, when the principal purpose of the verses would seem to be to inform the Jews of the dire consequences of disobeying G-d’s word?" He answers that it is to tell us of the level of hatred the Emorites bore us, and that we should be under no illusions that the enemies of the Jews will never willingly decease from their attacks, irrespective of the consequences.This is meaty stuff for the Christian, too. In Deuteronomy, Moses is not simply explaining the laws of God: he is earnestly enjoining them upon the consciences of his people, and urging them to pursue a holy life under the Covenant. Israel's greatest peril is idolatry, which is to be resisted and suppressed with uncompromising severity. Faithfulness to the Covenant will be rewarded by material benefits; violation and disregard of the Covenant will be punished by material disaster and, ultimately, exile.
In similar vein, the verses in Psalm 118:10-12 read: “The nations surround me; in the name of G-d they will be struck down. They surround me, they also surround me. In the name of G-d they will be struck down. They surround me like bees. They will be consumed as a fire burns thorns. In the name of G-d they will be struck down.”
The commentators explain that initially the anti-Semites besiege us. If the initial siege looks as if it will be breached, they re-double their efforts by re-encircling the previous siege lines. If this too fails, they attack us with reckless disregard for their own safety. Our only protection is a recognition of the power of G-d; but with that, they can be destroyed as comprehensively as a fire destroys a dry thorn bush.
The symbolism of the thorn bush is perhaps that it appears impregnable, with devastatingly sharp thorns; it is unbelievably hardy with an ability to survive with minimal water (which itself represents Torah because of its life-giving properties as a channel between G-d and man). It also bears no useful fruit. However, when attacked through the appropriate medium, it consumes itself speedily and with ferocity, precisely because it contains so little water/Torah.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.God, sin, righteousness and judgment are real and present: they determine the meaning of the life that we are given to live in this age. But this age repudiates God, mocks sin, scorns righteousness and laughs in the face of judgment. It is no wonder that the thorn bush is being consumed.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Of sin, because they believe not on me;
Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged (Jn 16:7-11).
Now, Psalm 137 is not a comfortable song; nor is it a song for the comfortable. It ends with a shrill cry of pain and hatred: “God, I wish you’d take the children of my enemies and smash their heads against the rocks.” But, it isn’t there to justify an ethic. It isn’t there to suggest it is right to think such awful things of other people’s children. It is there for two reasons: first, to confront us with the reality of how deep our own human hatred can go, and, secondly, to tell us not to lie to God (thinking he can’t handle that reality or the depths of human despair).Christians tend to focus on the messianic blessings and sing about the glories of Zion: we love the psalms of thanksgiving, kingship and confidence, and meditate on those of remembrance and wisdom. About a third of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament are drawn from the Psalms, which highlights their theological significance and liturgical importance to the Early Church.
Remember, O LORD, the children of EdomSuch laments take us to the depths of helplessness and forsakenness. They are cries of distress when there is nowhere to turn: God has abandoned us and our enemies mock and scorn - or terrorise, persecute and murder. Impulsively but genuinely we want their children to be fatherless and their wives to become widows (Psalm 109:8f). And we hope to God that their bastard offspring don't grow up to be another generation of murderous devils.
in the day of Jerusalem;
who said, Rase it, rase it,
even to the foundation thereof.
O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed;
happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth
thy little ones against the stones.
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Mt 19:14).Those who are taught resentment and loathing will not easily find Jesus or enter the kingdom. Violence breeds violence and hate engenders hate. The way of Christ is peace. In our secular polis this may seem like sheer folly. But it is a choice we make in the hope and anticipation that God's love will finally prevail through the way of the cross, despite our inability to see how this may be possible when warring hearts are filled with grievances and pain.
“You can't look at the pictures coming from Gaza and Israel without your heart breaking. We must cry to God and beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace and justice and security. Only a costly and open-hearted seeking of peace between Israeli and Palestinian can protect innocent people, their children and grand children, from ever worse violence.It is a carefully-worded equilibrium, offering compassion and understanding to the peoples of Israel and Gaza, and calling on both the Israeli Government and Hamas to pause, reflect, do penance and make reparation. And that requires humility: political dialogue requires peace, and peace demands justice and security.
“My utmost admiration is for all those involved in the humanitarian efforts on the ground, not least the medical team and staff at Al Ahli Arab Hospital. Providing relief and shelter for those displaced is a tangible expression of our care and concern, and I encourage Church of England parishes and dioceses, as well as the wider Communion, to pray for them and support the Diocese of Jerusalem's emergency appeal.
“While humanitarian relief for those civilians most affected is a priority, especially women and children, we must also recognise that this conflict underlines the importance of renewing a commitment to political dialogue in the wider search for peace and security for both Israeli and Palestinian. The destructive cycle of violence has caused untold suffering and threatens the security of all.
“For all sides to persist with their current strategy, be it threatening security by the indiscriminate firing of rockets at civilian areas or aerial bombing which increasingly fails to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, is self-defeating. The bombing of civilian areas, and their use to shelter rocket launches, are both breaches of age old customs for the conduct of war. Further political impasse, acts of terror, economic blockades or sanctions and clashes over land and settlements, all increase the alienation of those affected. Populations condemned to hopelessness or living under fear will be violent. Such actions create more conflict, more deaths and will in the end lead to an even greater disaster than the one being faced today. The road to reconciliation is hard, but ultimately the only route to security. It is the responsibility of all leaders to protect the innocent, not only in the conduct of war but in setting the circumstances for a just and sustainable peace.
“While it is acceptable to question and even disagree with particular policies of the Israeli government, the spike in violence and abuse against Jewish communities here in the UK is simply unacceptable. We must not allow such hostility to disrupt the good relations we cherish among people of all faiths. Rather we must look at ways at working together to show our concern and support for those of goodwill on all sides working for peace.”
Firstly let me say what I do not mean. I am not only referring to those who are members of our church in Baghdad. We don’t have any church members as such; we have hundreds if not thousands who see themselves as part of our community. They are both Christians and Muslims. The Christians are of all different Christian denominations: Chaldean, Syrian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Assyrian-Ancient Church of the East Old and New Calendar, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian. Then there are a large number of our Church community who are not even Christian but Muslim both Sunni and Shia. So in reality I see all these people as my people in Iraq as my people. I would also include in my people all the members of the High Council of Religious Leaders in Iraq (the HCRLI), which I direct, and there it is not even just Christians and Muslims but also Mandians, Yazeedis and Shabach. So all these people are whom I would consider My People in Iraq.And so, while hundreds of thousands of Christians flee the horrors of The Islamic State, Canon Andrew White keeps on going back for the sake of his people: to be with them, support them, provide and pray for them. That is his vocation: the summum bonum; the goal of his spiritual life. He doesn't know what the future holds, as he told John Humphrys on the BBC Radio4 Today programme. He just loves his people, and in their faces he sees the image of God.
Iraq is not the only place where I would consider that I have my people; fundamental to this group I would also consider those I work with in Israel and Palestine. For the work of FRRME is not just St George’s Baghdad and Iraq. We are about working for peace throughout the Middle East so Israel and Palestine is a major part of that. So here we are working intimately for peace amongst Jews, Christians and Muslims. This is also a vital part of our work. We are the only organization that is working actively in both Iraq and Israel and this is the work that the Lord has called us to do. Despite the risks we will not stop doing it because he who has called us will not fail us.
Meanwhile things continue to be very difficult in Iraq. The Christians who have fled Mosul are still in grave danger and many of them are “My People” and now you know what I mean by that many of My People come from Mosul/Nineveh and they go back to there homes often in the summer and had been caught up in the tragedy there and cannot return. ISIS continues to control much of Iraq and though it may not have taken Baghdad yet it does appear to have many so called “Hidden Cells” in Baghdad which will reveal themselves at the right time. So your prayers are still much needed.
..As we look back at the development over many centuries in the West of the freedoms we take for granted and at the end of a time when the law imposed penalties on heretics and demanded adherence to particular religious practices, we recognise that there is much of which to repent in our past. As we give thanks for freedom of religion and freedom of speech, even while we regret many of the opinions and attitudes that are freely followed and expressed, we see that there can be no return to an imposed Christendom.But the preacher's danger is that when he has preached about a thing, he is prone to imagine he has done it. And the congregation's danger is that when they heave heard about a thing, they subconsciously believe they have done something about it. And the blogger's danger is that he is hardened under the noise of his own reproofs.
This recognition intensifies our prayer for the people of the Middle East and parts of North and West Africa where a reborn militant Islamism seeks to impose an intensity of religious practice and adherence to one faith that allows no freedom of religion or of conscience or of speech. Our prayer in particular is for the Christians deprived of home and hearth, of their ancient communities and their settled way of life. The resurgence of active and destructive conflict between Israel and Palestine is another urgent cause for prayer. It seems deeply sad and strangely ironic that as we approach the centenary of conflagration in Europe with all that it implied for the rest of the world, so now we face a terrible conflagration in the Middle East with potential implications for Europe, America and the entire world. Pray earnestly that the West does not respond to the threat as we did a hundred years ago.
Our leaders need the Wisdom of Solomon and we ourselves need the assurance of the letter to the Romans from which we heard as our second lesson. St Paul was aware of the bloody persecution that threatened the emergent Christian community. He himself before his conversion had been responsible for severe assaults on the early Christians. But his comfort is to assure them that whatever they suffer, be it the loss of life itself, they can never be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Most of us, perhaps all of us here, may pray with some confidence that the fate befalling Christians in Iraq and Syria, in Palestine and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa, is unlikely to befall us. But however cushioned our lives feel or indeed are, we live with uncertainty. We cannot see the future. There may be many perils awaiting us. Whatever befall us, whether hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword, it will not, it cannot, separate us from the love of Christ, love that conquers everything.