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Hallo again to all.

Recently Pierre Whalon, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, long-time Anglicans Online columnist, travelled to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi Christians.

al Kadhimain mosque
Al Kadhimain mosque, Baghdad

He arrived on the day when Britons and Americans were formally advised by their governments to leave Iraq as soon as possible. Thanks be to God, Bishop Whalon's trip was both safe and successful.

When we learnt of his proposed journey, we looked round the web for images of the city. We know far more about the ancient Mesopotamian city of Babylon than we do the modern cosmopolitan capital, so we wanted to brush up our visual understanding. But news stories and articles have focussed on military and political aspects rather than the everyday life in Baghdad. Aside from an occasional glimpse of a mosque, a snapshot of an angry gesturing political figure, a still photo of Saddam, or some military-related photo, we found almost nothing at all that showed the ordinary city of Baghdad (as ordinary as a city can be under the twin burden of an oppressive regime and economic sanctions).

St George's Anglican Church, Baghdad (closed since 1991)
St George's Anglican Church, Baghdad

We began to wonder just what images people conjure up when they listen to news about the possible bombing of Iraq. Streets of hovels filled with camels? Some faux-exotic mosaic from old black-and-white Hollywood movies? If there are almost no images online of this vast metropolitan area of five million people, what reality can there be in our minds of this city? In such a visual world, perhaps we are indeed eyeless in Gaza.

Having failed to visualise Baghdad, we were delighted to learn that Bishop Pierre travelled with a digital camera. We worried that it might be confiscated (there are many dire official warnings to this effect); we were unnecessarily fretful, it turned out. The bishop was able to take a number of photos and was not at all restricted in what he could photograph. We're honoured to be able to offer you a glimpse of the city of Baghdad, its souks (markets), mosques, cars, people, both ordinary and exceptional. And at last we can all view images of St George's Anglican Church, dedicated in 1936 and still standing on the banks of the Tigris. (For how much longer?) The bishop's report of his trip will give you a further idea of the mood of the city and its people at a critical point in history.

As you read and look, dear friends, please also pray for peace at what seems, late this Sunday night, the eleventh hour. Whatever view we hold with regard to a possible invasion, surely we cannot but mourn for what will be the loss of life (much, if not most, of it innocent); the loss of architecture and antiquities, mute and innocent as well; and the loss of of something human in us all.

Perhaps there are no better words for prayer than the ancient chant of the Agnus Dei:

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Grant us thy peace.

See you next week. Dona nobis pacem.

Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 9 March 2003

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