Nineveh is mentioned repeatedly in scripture. It was the heart of the Assyrian empire first mentioned in the book of Genesis, and also by Nahum, Hezzekiah and other old testament prophets. It is where Jonah went to preach after his fishy escape plan failed. And ever since the first days of the Early Church it has been home to Christians. A community that has suffered terribly under Muslim oppression in recent years. For today Nineveh is called Mosul in the wart torn region of Iraq. Just look at the scale of destruction seen in the photograph above.
Two members of our congregation, Fr. Benedict Kiely and Tim Stanley, have been visiting Mosul this week. Fr. Benedict because his entire ministry is now given over to support of the persecuted church via his founding of Nasarean.org. Tim Stanley as a national reporter for the Daily Telegraph who wishes to report back on his findings. Please hold both in your prayers. Any visit to that region is risky indeed.
The next tweet came from a packed church for Mass in St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Ebril, Iraq celebrated by Archbishop Warda. An old friend of Fr. Benedict’s who is something of a hero having risked his life to help the thousands of displaced Christians forced out of the region by ISIS who were in desperate need of food and housing. Many of whom were also grieving the death of loved ones.
Fr. Kiely enjoyed the liturgy in Iraq tweeting after one Mass that ‘they almost used as much incense in the Chaldean Cathedral as at St. Anselm’s in Pembury’ That is good to hear. I would have been mortified if it was more!
Meanwhile Tim Stanley, seen here in Nineveh, was performing the task of every good journalist; soaking up every detail of his trip in order to report back. He has already produced a powerful article entitled ‘The West owes Iraq’s persecuted minorities a lot more than just talk”
I was particularly struck by this image, which Tim tweeted, of a relic of the desecration of a Christian church on the Nineveh plain. I think it is hauntingly provocative. Proof that beauty triumphs even in the face of the ugliest violence. This statue was destroyed in hate and yet restored in love. A symbol of our faith in resurrection. Never lose hope in Christ for all the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.
Pray for the persecuted Church in the Middle East. Pray for the Yazidis and all who have suffered at the cruel hands of extremist Islam. And thank God for the safe return of Fr. Benedict and Tim and for the important work they are doing.
You get no prizes for guessing what our next charitable cause as a parish is going to be.