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IRAQ: St. George's Anglican Church damaged in deadly bomb attack

[Episcopal News Service] Two major suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad on Sunday, Oct. 25, caused serious damage to St. George's Anglican Church and left at least 150 dead and more than 600 injured on the streets outside.

When the coordinated car bombs exploded in downtown Baghdad at 10:30 a.m. the church was empty. "If the bomb had been just a few hours later, the glass from the windows would have ripped through the congregation causing terrible human damage," said the Rev. Canon Andrew White, vicar of St. George's, the only Anglican church in Iraq. The explosions damaged the church's clinic, bookshop, school rooms and the Mothers' Union buildings.

St. George's is the spiritual home to about 2,000 Christians. In an Oct. 27 email, White confirmed that none of St. George's members had been killed in the attacks although some had been injured. He estimates the damage to the church and its out-buildings to be in the region of $200,000.

"Some people ask us whether days like today make us want to give up. We have seen much of what we have worked for destroyed. We have seen people we love bereaved," White said in an Oct. 25 email. "But the truth is, it is days like today that remind us why our work in Iraq is absolutely essential.
 
"We must continue to provide a place of worship for Iraqi Christians. We must continue to treat the medical needs of Iraqi civilians. And we must continue to engage with the senior religious leaders from across the sectarian divides, working with them to challenge the belief systems that lie behind this terrible slaughter."
 
Much of the equipment at the clinic was destroyed in the blasts, "placing it permanently out of reach of the Iraqi people who need it so desperately," said White. The clinic provides free medical and dental treatment to people in Iraq, regardless of their religious or ethnic background, and is staffed by a team of medics representing each of the Abrahamic faiths, said White.
 
"Today was a terrible day for us. But even in the blood and trauma and turmoil, there are things for which we can, and indeed must, praise our God," said White. "The carnage was terrible, but it could have been even worse."

White said that a storm on Saturday had caused a large tree to fall outside the church, "which prevented the suicide bomber from detonating his explosives where they would have caused maximum damage."

Known as the "vicar of Baghdad," White is president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, an organization that promotes interfaith relations in the Middle East.

Information on how to donate to St. George's is available here.

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