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‘It looks as if the end could be very near.’ This was the emotional response of Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad this morning, when asked about the prospects for Christianity in Iraq. He was at pains to stress that Christians and Muslims in Iraq have lived and worked together peacefully for centuries: it is terrorism, not Islam that is the problem.
Many Muslims have shown extraordinary bravery in speaking out against the persecution of Christians in Iraq, thereby risking their lives. Professor Mahmoud Al ‘Asali, a law professor at the University of Mosul, spoke out and was killed. Many more have acted in solidarity by painting the ‘N’ symbol on their doors, or declaring in one way or another, ‘I am Iraqi, I am Christian’.
Meanwhile in the UK, many Jews fasted for peace in Israel and Gaza. “It’s purpose is to send a message that many British Jewish supporters of Israel want to loudly and clearly call for de-escalation, a return of calm, a return to the negotiating table and the creation of two states for two peoples,” said Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi from Birmingham. “The only way that can guarantee stability and security in the long run."
There is a great danger that the terrible events in the Middle East may lead to increased sectarianism and division throughout the world. It is important that the acts of violent extremists are not allowed to represent an entire religion or community. Ordinary grassroots Muslims, Christians, and Jews can and do work together in solidarity and compassion. Here are a few ways you can find out more and offer support:
UK-based charity, Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, supports the humanitarian work of St George’s, Canon Andrew’s beleaguered church in Baghdad.
The Christian Muslim Forum, is "committed to furthering positive interactions between Christian and Muslim communities. In particular, we aim to foster the formation of Christian and Muslim dialogue groups."
Jews for Justice for Palestinians is "a network of Jews who are British or live in Britain, practising and secular, Zionist and not. We oppose Israeli policies that undermine the livelihoods, human, civil and political rights of the Palestinian people."
© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeadenTweet