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Discussing religion, spirituality and values. Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. You can email her at
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The Road to Jericho and the Highway of Death

In today’s paper, there is a story about the Rev. Pat Mahoney’s trip to Baghdad. He took a group of Christians over there to tell Iraqi leaders that American Christians are praying for them. The group also did a lot of praying. Before they left, Mahoney and two other locals weren’t even sure if they’d be able to leave their Baghdad hotel room because of security reasons. They might spend their entire time praying and worshipping in an Iraqi hotel.

“Couldn’t you pray for Iraqis here, where it’s safe?” I asked before he left.

That isn’t what Jesus did, Mahoney told me. He always reached out, physically went to the people who needed him. And as a Christian, Mahoney wanted to follow Jesus’ example. Right into a warzone. Talk about faith.

Mahoney got back Tuesday, and right away set up meetings to discuss how to help the Iraqis, especially the kids. We talked about the idea of just who your neighbor is. In the New Testament, a lot of people tried to trick Jesus into saying something they could disprove by earlier scriptures. And at one time, a lawyer asks him about rules. Jesus reminds him that there are two basic rules: love God and love your neighbor.

So the lawyer asks, “And who is my neighbor?”

Mahoney reminded me that the lawyer asks this trying to trick Jesus.

Jesus answers with the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man is beaten and robbed and left for dead on the road to Jericho. Two men pass him by. But the third, a Samaritan, who was hated by the Jews and thus an enemy of the beaten man, stops and helps him.

“Go and do thou likewise,” Jesus tells the lawyer.

The road Mahoney traveled to reach the prime minister of Iraq is called the highway of death. They traveled in armored vehicles, machine guns poking out the windows. The cars swerved across the road to avoid snipers. They switched positions in the convoy at underpasses.

They did this to pray with a man who doesn’t share their faith.

They also met with Iraqis who do share their faith, a minority group of Iraqi Christians. Mahoney said Christianity came to the area through the apostle Thomas, who stopped on his way to India. So Christianity’s been in Iraq for 2,000 years. But the Christians pay a heavy price–literally. They pay taxes to the radicals. If they don’t, they will be kidnapped or killed, their homes burned.

David Bradshaw, a local man who went to Iraq with Mahoney, said that seeing what those Christians go through increased his beliefs.

“The faith is something that is worth dying for,” he said. “This helps solidify that in our hearts, that this is something that is worth our lives.”