Canon White defiant after bombings

28 December 2011

by Ed Thornton

THE Chaplain of St George’s, Bagh­dad, Canon Andrew White, said that the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) will not give up its work, despite a series of bomb attacks in Baghdad last week, days after United States’ troops had left Iraq.

In a statement issued by FRRME on Thursday of last week, Canon White said: “What we most feared would happen is happening. I said all along that it won’t make any dif­ference to us if the Americans leave. I was really wrong. . . Before, we knew that the US were just around the corner so we could get them if we needed them, but now they are not there. But we won’t give up, we won’t stop our work.”

Reports this week suggested that a group with links to al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the blasts, which killed at least 69 people.

In a Christmas video message, Canon White said: “While the world is celebrating Christmas, Baghdad is hurting and burning. In no way were Christians targeted in these attacks. They appear to be mainly targeted at the Shia, but Sunnis were killed as well.”

The director of FRRME, Peter Marsden, said that the series of 14 bomb blasts amounted to “a co-ordinated attack on the institutions of the state, including on the Foreign Ministry, which is very close to St George’s. . . With the arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice-President issued by the Shia Prime Minister, the fragile coalition government is fracturing down sectarian lines and turning violently on itself.”

The statement from FRRME said that reality was “swiftly proving to contradict” President Obama, who said earlier this month that the US was “leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq”.

The Sunday after US troops left Iraq, more than 3000 worshippers attended a service at St George’s. “In spite of all the bombs and the guns, and the violence on the streets,” Canon White said, “St George’s remains a place of real joy. I ask my congregation: ‘Why do you take such risks to attend church?’ They simply tell me: ‘We are loved here.’”

The Catholic News Service reported last week that midnight masses in Baghdad, Mosul, and Kirkuk had been cancelled because of the fear of attack.

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