St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad had its doors shuttered during Saddam Hussein’s regime. After the end of the dictator’s rule, it opened its doors once again, but not without facing many challenges. Built in 1936 to honor fallen British soldiers, it served as both a symbol of Christianity as well as the West, in a land that is aggressively opposed to its religious minorities and prone to extremism.
Today, the church is run by and for Iraqis. It is shepherded by Reverend Faez Jerjees, Iraq’s only ordained Anglican clergyman. Canon Faez has been involved with St. George’s since 2006. He has been recognized by both the Iraqi Ministry of Culture and Queen Elizabeth II for his humanitarian work. In July 2020, he was honored with the award of an MBE – Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire – by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He was awarded with this title for his “services to the Anglican, Christian and local community in Baghdad.”
As the only Anglican church in Iraq, in a country which is ranked 14th on Open Doors’ World Watch List for Christian persecution, St. George’s Anglican Church is a beacon of light for Christians of all backgrounds in one of the most tumultuous places on earth. St. Thomas carried the gospel to Iraq in the 1st century AD, and it is still home to one of the oldest bodies of Christians in the world. Sadly, their numbers have been dwindling year after year, particularly since the 2014 ISIS insurgency, reaching levels of “near extinction,” in 2019.
St. George’s stands as a symbol of hope to those who remain. Located in Baghdad’s Red Zone, St. George’s has been bombarded with many rockets and threats of violence over the years, but nothing has been able to stop the church from being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in the city. Their spirit of service has gone a long way in helping to unite the people of Baghdad.
St. George’s operates a medical and dental clinic that provides free care to the citizens of Baghdad. It is open to anyone, regardless of their religious or ethnic background. It has become such a unifying force, that both Muslims and Christians work on staff as doctors, nurses, and dentists at the clinic, providing care to their fellow Baghdadis.
St. George’s also operates a K-5 school that offers superior instruction, safe facilities, and clean restrooms. The Kindergarten, which has been operating for several years, is one of the most highly esteemed childhood educational programs in Baghdad.
Anglican School of the Redeemer – al-Fadi, is a primary school (K-5) that serves children in the surrounding area of Baghdad. At its opening in 2018, it was celebrated as a unifying force across denominational lines, and among the community’s Christian and Muslim families. The Kindergarten, which has operated many years prior to the addition of grades 1-5, is comprised of children from mostly Muslim families, who trust the school’s ability to provide a safe venue for education in English and Arabic, and its teaching of strong moral values.
This is a critical bridge in a region that has been inundated in sectarian violence. It is commendable and inspiring that St. George’s has become a trusted fixture in a society that is so often divided by religious and cultural differences.
In the words of Canon Faez in 2017, “[We,] want to also [teach] them how to live together, how they can learn together, eat together and love each other. This is very important for the future in Iraq.”
Despite many challenges, St. George’s continues to build bridges of healing in Baghdad. But, without people like you, our mission would be impossible to achieve. American FRRME is the primary US organization funding St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad. American FRRME is committed to long-term, sustainable programs for minorities in the Middle East, like those run by St. George’s. Prayer and support from our faithful partners in the United States help St. George’s to not only survive but also to thrive.