St. Johns in Baghdad Celebrates Its First Mass Since May
The Muslim community in Baghdad played a significant role in making this day a reality.
Auxiliary Bishop Schlemon Warduni gives communion to an Iraqi Christian during a worship service Nov. 15 at St. John’s Church in Baghdad’s Doura neighborhood. The church celebrated its first service since May 5, with many Muslim leaders from the neighborhood in attendance. Photo by Spc. Ben Washburn, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.BAGHDAD — Nov. 15 marked an important day for the residents of the Doura neighborhood, as Iraqi Christians returned to conduct worship services at St. John’s Church. (MNF-Iraq)
St. Johns in Baghdad celebrated its first mass since May this Thursday, November 15. Muslim leaders from the neighborhood were in attendance to show their support for their Christian neighbors.
Bishop Schlemon Warduni, Auxiliary Bishop of the Chaldean Church, came to St. John’s, in the heart of a southern Baghdad neighborhood where violence had been the worst and al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) most strongly entrenched, to give the first mass since May 5.
With Christians, Muslims, and Iraqi security and Coalition forces on hand, Bishop Warduni delivered a mass praying for peace and unity for all of Iraq. The Christians in the congregation took communion to conclude the service, culminating a day more than six months in the making.
“This service is a reflection of the current security situation in Doura,” said Harker Heights, Texas, native Col. Ricky D. Gibbs, commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. “Only a few weeks ago AQI had the Iraqi populace in the grip of terror but they’ve been pushed out and the people have returned to worship.”
Tired that their Christian friends had been forced out by AQI, Muslim leaders sought a way to bring these families back into the community. Lt. Col. Stephen Michael, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, said the Muslim community played a significant role in the events of the day.
“Some of the first people that called for the opening of the church were the Muslims here that have lived in this muhalla (neighborhood)” said Michael, a native of Newark, N.J., as he stood in the church courtyard in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Many Muslim leaders attended the service as a sign of friendship and support to their Christian neighbors. Their attendance could be a sign that Muslims in the area have rejected AQI and embraced their Christian friends.
A Muslim man had invited the American soldiers from “Chosen” Company 2-12 Cavalry to the church, where I videotaped as Muslims and Christians worked and rejoiced at the reopening of St John’s, an occasion all viewed as a sign of hope.
The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. ” Thank you, thank you,” the people were saying. One man said, “Thank you for peace.” Another man, a Muslim, said “All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.” The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers.
This Thursday the Christians celebrated their first mass since May at the church.
UPDATE: A Pulitzer Prize for Michael Yon?
UPDATE 3: Iraqi-American Haider Ajina adds this:
This is what happens when rule of law, democracy and ownership society come together.
Thanks to the back breaking effort of our men and women in Iraq and Iraqis willing and wanting to take back their country from dictatorship and terrorist Takfiries.