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BosNewsLife – The entire lay leadership of Iraq ‘s main Anglican Church was presumed dead Thursday, September 29, amid reports they were attacked while returning from a conference in neighboring Jordan . The London based The Times newspaper said in its online edition that the team of five Iraqi-born Anglicans, including the lay pastor and his deputy, should have returned two weeks ago from the conference.

In published statements, Canon Andrew White, the clergyman in charge of the Baghdad based St. George’s Memorial Church said he had been told the five Anglicans were attacked while returning from Jordan along the notorious road linking the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.

A BosNewsLife team traveling previously in the region recalled how people prefer to drive in speeding convoys in that area as cars get often attacked by gunmen. “It is the most dangerous area in Iraq ,” added White.

The missing Anglican Christians were identified as lay pastor Maher Dakel, his wife Mona, who runs the women’s section of the church, their son Yeheya, the church’s music director Firas Raad and the deputy lay pastor and their driver.

White, who also works for the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East and was reportedly dubbed ‘the Vicar of Baghdad’ suggested members of the church were hoping the missing group may have been taken to hospital by American soldiers.

But after checking US forces in Iraq and the Pentagon there has been no news on their fate, he told reporters. White stressed he does not believe they were targeted because of their religion. “The fact is that attacks on people on that road happen all the time, particularly on people who appear to be richer or middle class,” he said.

The Right Rev Colin Bennetts, Bishop of Coventry, who attended the opening of St George’s Memorial Church after years of closure under the Saddam Hussein regime, described the attacks as “a terrible blow” for the Christian community.

“We all saw this as a sign of hope and a new beginning under the desperate and despotic regime of Saddam,” he reportedly said. “Since that time the church has grown from a handful of worshippers to a congregation of hundreds. For them to lose their leadership in this way is a sad and terrible blow.”

It comes amid almost daily suicide attacks in Baghdad and other areas and concern over attacks against Christians in the region ahead of a crucial referendum on the constitution. Tens of thousands of Christians fled Iraq , something the St George’s Memorial Church in Baghdad wanted to end with aid and worship services.

The church was established in 1936 but recently re-opened after being forced to close for over a decade under Saddam Hussein…[Go To Full Story]