AN ANGLICAN primary school has opened in the grounds of St George’s, Baghdad, to serve the predominantly Muslim local community.
The Anglican School of the Redeemer — Al Fadi — opened at the end of September, and had pupils in Years 1, 2, and 3. There is already a kindergarten within the church compound, and it was parental requests for the kindergarten to expand which first inspired the church’s plan to open a primary school. It is hoped that, as enough funding is raised, the school will continue to expand to cater for up to 300 children all the way through their primary education.
There are currently about 150 children in the Redeemer kindergarten, 90 per cent of whom come from Muslim families. Many of them will now stay on for their primary education.
The Chaplain of St George’s, the Revd Faiz Jerjees, said that the school would help to build relationships between faith communities. Speaking earlier this year in a video to the charity Stand With Iraqi Christians, which has supported the school with financial donations, Fr Faiz said that the school was focused on “not just language, not just to teach them Arabic or English; but we want to also [teach] them how to live together, how they can learn together, eat together, and love each other. This is very important for the future in Iraq.”
The school was formally opened on Michaelmas Day by the Bishop in Cyprus & the Gulf, the Rt Revd Michael Lewis, with other Christian leaders, including the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church of Babylon and the Archbishop of Baghdad, the Most Revd Louis Raphaël Sako.
The Archdeacon in the Gulf, the Ven. Dr Bill Schwartz, attended the opening. He said: “I have just returned from Baghdad, and, after watching the building being constructed over the past months, it was a joy to hear the sounds of children singing, playing, and reciting their lessons instead of the noise of jackhammers and drills.
“As funding comes available, we hope to complete construction of the building in time to open for Years 4 to 6 in the 2019-20 school year.”
St George’s is the only Anglican church in Iraq, and has a congregation of about 300. In addition to the kindergarten and the new school, St George’s also runs a free health clinic for the community which sees about 80 patients a day, and is staffed by Christians and Sunni and Shia Muslims.
The church has been badly bombed in recent years, but is now protected by guards and security gates.