The entire lay leadership of St. George's Memorial Church, the Anglican church in Baghdad, is presumed dead after the group went missing in mid-September. They were traveling in the Sunni Triangle, a 100-mile swath from Baghdad north to Tikrit, where 80 percent of insurgent attacks occur.
"There has been no further word about them," said Bishop Clive Handford, who is responsible for the Anglican diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf. "We have to presume that they have been killed. There has been no claim of responsibility. In this case, no news is bad news."
The team of five Iraqi-born Christians had been visiting Amman, Jordan, for a church conference.
The party included: Maher Dakel, the principal lay leader and translator; his wife, Mona, who worked with the women in the church; their son, Yehya, a musician; senior assistant Firas Raad; and the group's driver.
If they had been kidnapped, Handford speculated, there would have been a ransom demand. Maybe insurgents were involved, but "there are lots of holdups with robbery, sometimes killing and sometimes not," the bishop said. "Their abduction has had a considerable impact on St. George's congregation. They are very depressed."
Handford said that until recently about 800 people were associated with the congregation. The core group attending Sunday services numbered between 200 to 300 adults. He said only 40 to 50 people now attend on Sundays.
"There isn't an Anglican among them, but Chaldeans and other Christian faith communities gather there because it provides a spiritual lifeline," Handford said. "Even some Muslims have come just to find a place of prayer and spiritual peace."
The only Anglican church in Iraq, St. George's was established in 1936. But for more than a decade before ...1
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