A Voice of Peace in Baghdad

Joe Murray

January 12, 1991|By Joe Murray

BAGHDAD — THE FOG COMES in at night, shrouding this city of 4 million souls. The dogs of Baghdad, in their confusion and fear, come awake in the fog and howl into the night.

It is after midnight, I am awake and can't go back to sleep. I phone a reporter whom I know here, who I know will be awake also.

I ask her to tell me what news she's heard in the last few hours. After she tells me, I don't go back to sleep. I go to look for a church.

In this city of 4 million souls, some 400,000 of them are Christian. I would like to find the First Baptist Church of Baghdad, if there is such a thing. I find instead the Church of Saint Raphael, a Catholic church on a small side street across from a Catholic hospital. In their healing, they work both sides of the street.

The chapel has 13 wooden benches, enough for about 100 people to sit. For the service this day, people also are standing.

The church is still decorated for the Christmas celebration. There is a Christmas tree and a miniature of the manger scene. There is ''Peace,'' spelled out in large, cut-out letters and strung along a string behind the altar.

From somewhere off to the side of the altar, someone I can't see plays a simple solo on a flute. The music plays on my spine. It is the old, old song, ''Amazing Grace.'' I have heard this song so many times before but never as pure, as piercing as this night.

The priest, with hair as white shining as his robe, tells the old, old story, of how the Wise Men sought Jesus and how wise men still seek Him. I have heard it so many times before. I hear it anew. Here are the words of the priest:

''Where do we find Christ? Christ is in all events that happen in TTC the world. God is constantly talking to us, but unfortunately we do not always hear . . . because of our limitations, because of hardness of our hearts.

''When Jesus was on earth many times men rejected Him because of the hardness of their hearts. But still, Christ is in all of us. People who may be hurting us, people who may be persecuting us, Christ is in them also.

''God speaks to us in many ways. He spoke to the Wise Men by showing them the Star moving to where Jesus was. But their way of finding Jesus and our way may be different.

''We may find Him in the Word of God. We may find Him in listening to others. We may find Him in the church. We may even find Him in the cross, in our suffering in our lives.

''We don't find Christ in conflict, or in war. We find Him in peace . . . in prayer, in our sacrifice. In suffering.''

Then the priest prayed anew the old, old prayer that has been prayed so many times before by people everywhere.

''We pray that peace may reign over conflict, that reconciliation may take precedence over confrontation, that we may live in peace and harmony, that we may be spared the suffering of war. Amen.''

And the people -- 100 or so people of so many different races in this city of 4 million souls -- the people said, Amen.

Joe Murray, editor-publisher emeritus of the Lufkin (Texas) Daily News, is senior writer for Cox Newspapers.

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