Sunday brought terrible news from Baghdad, where Andrew White is vicar of St George's Church, which is in Haifa Street. (You may remember he wrote the foreword to My Donkeybody.) Here's what Andrew wrote:
'I am very sorry to tell you that the two major bomb explosions in Baghdad this morning have done serious damage to the church compound, the clinic, the bookshop, the school rooms and the mothers' union buildings.
'The windows were replaced after the bombings on 19 August, but they have been destroyed again, and this blast hit the church much more powerfully. Even the window frames and the doors were blown out. All of the cars in the compound and the Danish Memorial were destroyed.
'And the clinic? The St George's clinic provides free medical and dental treatment to people in Iraq, regardless of their religious or ethnic background. It is staffed by a team of medics representing each of the Abramic faiths: Muslim, Christian and Jew. It contained high quality medical equipment provided by charitable donations to the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. In a moment, much of this equipment has been destroyed, placing it permanently out of reach of the Iraqi people who need it so desperately.
'Outside the church, at least 132 people were killed and over 600 injured. Destroyed fragments of their bodies have been thrown through windows of the church, making the clean-up operation yet more unpleasant. Many of our staff and church members remain unaccounted for. Lay Pastor Faiz and I have been trying in vain to reach them by telephone.
'Today was a terrible day for us. But even in the blood and trauma and turmoil, there are things for which we can, and indeed must, praise our G-d. The carnage was terrible, but it could have been even worse.
- At 10.30am this morning, when the bombs exploded, there was no-one in the church. If the bomb had been just a few hours later, the glass from the windows would have ripped through the congregation causing terrible human damage.
- Yesterday an enormous tree fell down outside the church, which prevented the suicide bomber from detonating his explosives where they would have caused maximum damage.
'Some people ask us whether days like today make us want to give up. We have seen much of what we have worked for destroyed. We have seen people we love bereaved. But the truth is, it is days like today that remind us why our work in Iraq is absolutely essential.
'We must continue to provide a place of worship for Iraqi Christians. We must continue to treat the medical needs of Iraqi civilians. And we must continue to engage with the senior religious leaders from across the sectarian divides, working with them to challenge the belief systems that lie behind this terrible slaughter.
'We will not stop because of this. Will you stand with us and help us to restore what was destroyed?'