The life, culture and history of Iraq was brought alive to the parishioners and friends of St Joseph's in Nechells, Birmingham, when Dr Joseph Seferta, an Iraqi Christian spoke after the Ash Wednesday Mass yesterday. Dr Seferta, a former teacher, shared something of the fantastic history of his country. Modern Iraq embraces Mesopotamia, sometimes called the cradle of civilisation, as well as many places familiar from the Old Testament. But life there is already difficult. About three quarters of the population is dependent on sparse government handouts, medical supplies are hard to come by, and a substantial number of people are still suffering the after effects of the last war. For Christians, there is another dimension: since President Bush spoke of a "crusade" against terrorism - some Muslims have seen them as friends of the West and therefore as enemies. If the country is attacked by America, the Christians could be in great danger. The Chaldean Christians of Iraq, are a part of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church. They have a history that stretches back to the earliest days of Christianity and still speak a version of Aramaic - the language of Jesus. Although they are weak in numbers, Dr Seferta assured us that his people have a strong faith which they do not hide. He ended his talk by singing the Hail Holy Queen, in Arabic.
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