By Spc. Paul A. Holston/XVIII Abn. Corps PAOFebruary 3, 2012
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Although the mission in Iraq was completed as part of Operation New Dawn in December 2011, the United States continues to nurture its partnership with the Iraqi people.
U.S. Army Christian chaplains from Fort Bragg and two Iraqi Christian pastors, Reverends Aziz Makadsi and Joseph Francis, came together to share ideas and stories during a pastor meeting at John F. Kennedy Memorial Chapel Jan. 27.
"I believe that it's very important for the entire world to know what the minorities, especially Christians, are experiencing in Iraq," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Charles Reynolds, world religion chaplain for XVIII Airborne Corps.
During Operation New Dawn, Reynolds was the strategic advisement chaplain for United States Forces-Iraq, with primary responsibilities of providing weekly world religious updates to then USF-I commanding general, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin. Reynolds met with more than 60 religious leaders during his tour in Iraq.
"The largest minority group in Iraq is Christians," said Reynolds. "My personal responsibility was trying to connect Christian groups in the U.S. with those in Iraq."
Reynolds said he was able to connect fellow Baptist churches in North Carolina and Virginia to Makadsi and Francis' congregations, therefore forming new relationships.
He was able to bring his fellow Iraqi pastors, Makadsi and Francis, both from Baghdad, to the U.S. which gave them the opportunity to share their stories, as well as current events, of the situations of Christians in their country.
"We are here to make connections between Christians of Iraq and Christians of America," said Makadsi, who was ordained as a pastor in 2007. "It's great that we have this opportunity to be here and share our message," he said.
"Our goal is to let the American people know our story," said Francis, ordained in 2009. "With the sufferings that are happening within my country, we want to share the hardships of being a Christian in Iraq and express how the U.S. can help us in the future."
Being able to come to the U.S. to talk with their fellow Christians has strengthened the relationship between the Iraqi and U.S. pastors and creates an even stronger partnership.
"I believe the best way to connect with each other is between each other's churches. To be able to keep the communication between us, it maintains our relationship and bond," said Francis.
"America wants a secure, stable Iraq," said Reynolds. "We can continue to achieve that goal with these lasting connections. We need to make Americans and the world aware of their situation. It's not just Christians, it's the other groups as well, but this can be the foundation."
Reynolds will continue to tour with Makadsi and Francis through North Carolina and Virginia churches for the remainder of their trip, as they hope to create new relationships and possible lasting bonds with their fellow Christians.