Evangelist Billy Graham met with three Iraqi religious leaders who were visiting the United States and Great Britain to promote awareness of the detrimental effects of economic sanctions on the Iraqi people.
Patriarch Raphael Bidawad of the Chaldean Church of Babylon (the largest Christian community in Iraq with more than 600,000 members), Ayatollah Sayyid Al-Sadar of the Shi'ite community, and Sunni leader Abdul Latif Mohammad presented Graham with a copy of the Qur'an in English and Arabic at the meeting in Boston on September 25.
In a goodwill gesture, the trio invited Graham—who served as a spiritual counselor to President George Bush during the war with Iraq in 1991—to visit the nation.
Graham said he was unable to travel to Iraq because of age and health problems. He suggested that his son Franklin Graham, who has been involved in humanitarian aid to Iraq through Samaritan's Purse, might visit instead.
Though there are significant differences between Christianity and Islam, Graham told the delegation, everyone can agree "that God wants us to have compassion on those who are suffering, and to do what we can to help."
The Iraqi leaders also met with prominent American Muslims and former President Jim my Carter to discuss a recent UNICEF report indicating that international sanctions against Iraq have contributed to the deaths of thousands of children who lack medicine and food. In Great Britain, the delegation visited the Archbishop of Canterbury, Roman Catholic leaders, and Muslim representatives.
Their tour coincides with a recent appeal by the heads of 24 major Christian denominations to President Clinton to support the repeal of the UN embargo against Iraq.1