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This text and podcast is the second of five reflective radio talks for Easter from Harry Hagopian, focusing on the presence, life and witness of the often-forgotten historic Christian communities across the Middle East. Today, attention turns to the war-ravaged and destitute Christians of Iraq.
Listen to this Premier Christian Radio broadcast* here on Ekklesia: www.ekklesia.co.uk/harryhagopian2.mp3
Read the full text:
Yesterday, I recalled those Living Stones of the Holy Land that St Peter referred to in his First Epistle [1 Pet 2:5] - mainly local Arab communities, but also many Armenians, Greeks and foreign missionaries or guests to the biblical land of our faith. Today, I would like to move further into Iraq - a land that is one of the earliest known civilisations in world history and associated with our forefather and patriarch Abraham, born in Ur in southern Mesopotamia or modern-day Iraq.
I would not begrudge anyone in today’s political climate dismissing Iraqis as a bunch of people hell-bent on killing each other and blowing up their enemies in some form of misplaced martyrdom or quest for freedom. But there is more to Iraq than what conveniently meets most of our eyes. Iraq has had vibrant and quite large local Christian communities - Chaldean Catholics, Assyrians, Anglicans and many others - who have prayed for millennia in Arabic, who have been enriched by the local culture they largely helped shape and who have lived with their Muslim and Kurdish neighbours peacefully at times, and not so peacefully at others.
Today, as a result of the wars that have ravaged Iraq ever since 1990, not least that of 2003, well over a third of Iraqi Christians have fled their country and have become destitute refugees in neighbouring countries. As we celebrate the liberating joy of Easter, can we remember and pray for them too?
(c) Harry Hagopian is a former executive secretary for the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) and now an ecumenical, legal and political consultant for the Armenian Orthodox Church, as well as an independent inter-faith adviser for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. He contributes regularly to Ekklesia.
* These talks are reproduced and podcasted by Ekklesia with the kind agreement of Premier Christian Radio (http://www.premier.org.uk/). Each one will be broadcast twice a day between 5-9 April 2010. Our thanks to Ian Turner and PCR for making these available.Tweet