Christians from churches in Ripon and further afield came together at Ripon Cathedral last weekend (Friday 29th- Saturday 30th August) to take part in a Night of Prayer for Iraq.
While many joined for a service of Compline on Friday evening followed by an hour of silent prayer late into the evening, others (with sleeping bags and warm clothing)) stayed on throughout the night to continue taking in turns to pray and sleep as the Vigil went on.
(Left- Vigil through the Night) Nick Morgan, one of the event’s organisers, said, “The situation for Christians and other minorities in Iraq is almost beyond imagining. This Night of Prayer offered people an opportunity to join the Church of England’s campaign to ‘Pray. Act. Give.’ to stop the slaughter in Iraq. Prayer calls us to listen to God and to be prepared to respond.”
Those who took part gathered around the Easter Candle, symbol of the light of Christ, which had been situated near the west end of the Cathedral. The great wooden West Doors were left open so those inside remained aware of the world outside they are praying for, and those outside could witness the act of prayer.
“Having been challenged to respond by our Diocesan Bishop, Nick Baines, we wished to highlight the plight of those suffering persecution in Iraq”, said the Very Reverend John Dobson, Dean of Ripon. “ It is important that we put prayer and love at the heart of our response, so together we will invite the light and love of God into this dark situation.”
(Left - 3 am at Ripon Cathedral) Materials remains available in the Cathedral including prayers and information about the situation in Iraq. There are leaflets with details of how to write to your local MP and how to give to organisations who are working on the ground in Iraq to alleviate the suffering of the thousands of refugees.
Background to the situation in Iraq
Continue to remember … those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:3)
In the last two months 850,000 Iraqis, mostly Christians, Shi’ites and Yazidi, have fled their homes as Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS) fighters have swept across the north of the country. threatening with death all who will not adopt their version of Islam. An estimated 10,000 people have lost their lives, most of whom are civilians. Religious and ethnic minority groups have been particularly targeted, and many have been subjected to unspeakable brutalities. It is estimated that a quarter of Iraq’s Christians have fled, threatened by IS at best with fines, at worst with forced conversion or death. All these refugees, the innocent victims of this crisis, are in desperate need of food, water and medical care in the short term and a place of safety to re-establish their families and livelihoods in the longer term.
The Arabic letter ن (N) has been daubed on the homes of Christians (often called Nasrani in Arabic) in Mosul to identify them as targets for persecution or execution. This symbol has been picked up around the world as a way in which we can identify with those from all religious and ethnic communities who are being targeted by ISIS. As a church, we are committed to championing freedom of religion and belief worldwide as a fundamental and internationally recognised human right. Even in the UK, we stand firmly against any labelling or targeting of people on the basis of their religion, and we work for a society that continues to be welcoming and respectful of all faiths.
More at www.riponcathedral.org/iraq