Saturday, October 21, 2006

Baratha Mosque Bombing

A soldier on guard inside Buratha mosque after today's bombingI've often been inside this mosque which was targetted by another suicide bomber today. It's very beautiful - and very tranquil. I first went there as a child. What was a Christian kid doing there? I was brought there on a pilgrimage when we were posted to Lebanon. Our parish priest organised a pilgrimage to the "place abundant with palms" for the children of the parish.

Many people, Christian and Muslim alike, believe that the Virgin Mary stayed there and that a spring sprang forth at her touch. It's a major pilgrmage site for Muslims - many consider it the fifth most sacred place in the world. The reason for that is that after the battle of Al- Nahrawan Imam Ali visited it. He and his son prayed there along with 100,000 believers and he is said to have dug the well which stands at the source of the holy spring.

The original mosque was built about 100 years before the founding of Baghdad. It and the well were restored recently. The water from the well, rather like Lourdes in the Western tradition is believed to confer healing and blessings (baraka.) I managed to get there during my last trip to Iraq and it was very noticeable that many of the people there were Christian pilgrims coming from Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and that they were mingling freely with Muslim pilgrims from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Bahrain .... That's why it's attacked so often. It's an island of tolerance in a sea of hate.


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