Our Church in Iraq

Stand With Iraqi Christians
Posted Aug 23, 2023

Pictured (from left): Archdeacon Paul Feheley, the Rev. Canon Faiz Basheer Jerges, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Sinan Hanna Kakarash and the Rev. Chris Bishop. Photo: SWIC

Radnor, PA, August 22, 2023—Stand With Iraqi Christians (SWIC) is an Episcopal-led ministry which seeks to build relationships with and provide recovery, resilience, and economic development for Iraq’s beleaguered Christian communities. SWIC is now inviting proposals from organizations that implement projects in Iraq. This new proposal application process is part of the follow-up from the successful completion of a visit by The Rev. Canon Faiz Basheer Jerges and his colleague and translator Mr. Sinan Hanna Kakarash in May. The Most Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church said, “I welcomed Father Faiz Jerjes and Sinan Hanna from St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad to my office. I was very moved in hearing their story and how they evangelize and live out their faith by witnessing to the poor and sharing faith and hope. They need our support and prayers.”

SWIC’s commitment is to all of the people of Iraq by working with Christian partners in two ways. We fund a significant Family Farm Initiative and Small Business Redevelopment Grant Program in northern Iraq, helping communities devastated by ISIS with support to rebuild and restore what was destroyed. SWIC also has provided support for St. George’s Church in Baghdad, in collaboration with the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf.

Our friends from St. George’s, Father Faiz and Sinan, started their May visit at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, May 7, where they held a discussion concerning the difficulties faced by the Christian communities in Iraq. The Very Rev. Randolph “Randy” Hollerith, Dean of the cathedral, introduced Canon Faiz by saying, he is “an incredible individual who has been doing amazing ministry in Baghdad. [He is] instrumental in programs around human rights, around helping out Yazidis who’ve been so terribly persecuted, and creating free medical services….We have much to learn about the situations for Christians in Iraq and the work they are trying to do.”

While in D.C., the delegation was able to meet with civil society and public leaders and brainstorm solutions which could address unmet humanitarian needs. The two finished that week with a visit to Church of the Ascension and St. Agnes on May 14th.

St. George’s Church in Baghdad was founded in 1864 and remains the only Anglican church in Iraq. In October 2017, St George’s staged a Festival of Faith, “in the midst of hardship and at a time of disturbing political developments,” the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf said, to provide an opportunity for many Christians in Iraq to “joyously reaffirm their faith in God the Holy Trinity, who is Lord of all.” That same year, the Iraqi Ministry of Culture honored Canon Faiz as one of the country’s Distinguished Personalities of the Year for his role in supporting human rights work in the country.

Canon Faiz and Sinan continued their travels in the U.S. with worship at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral on May 15th. The day ended with a forum at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne, PA. The focus continued to be on the ministries of St. George’s, as well as SWIC’s outreach to Christian farmers, businesses, and families in Northern Iraq, as they rebuild after years of destruction by ISIS followed by the pandemic.

In addition to talks at The Episcopal Church Center starting on May 16th, the delegates had conversations with individuals associated with the United Nations. Archdeacon Paul Feheley, Middle East Partnership Officer for The Episcopal Church, said in summary that “the reality for all who listened is a resplendent story of faith, of evangelism, and of living the good news in ways Christ intended.” At the end of the week, they were guests at Grace Church School where they had a tour and talked about establishing pen-pal school relationships.

Another event, sponsored by The Episcopal Diocese of New York Global Mission Commission and the Women’s Global Fund Forums, was held at The House of the Redeemer. The Church of the Holy Trinity (NYC), St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, St. Thomas Episcopal Church (5th Avenue), and St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in the Highlands welcomed Canon Faiz and Sinan in worship and hosted forums. Sinan shared, “First of all, it was a pleasure for me to meet you in person in [the] US, I used to meet you here in Iraq, but also meeting SWIC’s wonderful board in person. I was blessed to spend some time with Buck and Ayla in DC, with Vincent and Pam in Pennsylvania, and Joe in New York City. I am grateful for your hospitality which makes me feel welcomed and would love to come again. As a first trip for the church in Baghdad in many years, we are connecting the church to the rest of body of Christ in [the] US. I believe this trip was good start. We would love to come again and also go to other states and meet more churches in the coming years.”

Throughout the travels, there was a continuing emphasis on SWIC’s mission to show how those in the United States can offer friendship and financial assistance to Iraqi Christians and their communities as they work to restore peace, rebuild society, and secure a future for their children. Contact the SWIC Executive Director, Deborah Bressoud Parker (execdirswic@gmail.com), with questions or to submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) for projects being implemented in Iraq. SWIC’s Website is www.swic.org.

Stand With Iraqi Christians (SWIC)— SWIC is a church-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization under The Episcopal Church IRS exemption. It began in 2015 under the direction of The Rev. Chris Bishop and continues to grow as it funds projects with a focus on economic empowerment for Christian farms and small businesses in northern Iraq, benefiting the wider Iraqi communities they serve. SWIC also engages in education initiatives and maintains a relationship with St. George’s, a church in the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf.

Christianity in Iraq

  • 2003–2022
    • Approximately 80% of Christians in Iraq have emigrated, with estimates of fewer than 250,000 still living in Iraq and many of those continue to be displaced.*

Data for SWIC’s Christian Redevelopment Projects in Northern Iraq

  • 2019–2023
    • 25 Chicken Farms Restarted for Approximately 3,000 Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Beneficiaries
  • 2021–2023
    • 5 Sheep Farms Restarted for Approximately 600 Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Beneficiaries
  • 2022–2023
    • 19 Small Businesses Redeveloped for Approximately 665 Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Beneficiaries
  • Total: SWIC has helped restart the livelihoods of 49 Christian families and estimates this has benefited in some capacity over 4,200 Iraqis as they work to rebuild society.

St. George’s, Baghdad, Worship and School

  • Average Sunday Attendance at St. George’s is 100–200
  • School of the Redeemer at St. George’s
    • 150 Preschool/Kindergarten
    • 150 Elementary School

*Source: SWIC’s Free Publication

“The Challenges Facing Iraqi Christians: Finding a Way Forward.”