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‘Candle of Hope’ for Middle East Christians

by Fr Richard Andrew

On Friday 12th October Holy Trinity Church Brook Green hosted ‘A Candle of Hope’, an inspirational concert, directed and organised by parishioner Laurence Carroll. Involving five local choirs, including the parish’s Family Mass choir, the resident Syriac Catholic Church choir, the choirs of Catholic primary schools of St Mary’s and Larmenier & Sacred Heart, and the Brook Green Sinfonia, it was the first ever performance of its kind in aid of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, tracing a journey from war to peace. As Pope Francis’ words on the programme reminded us: ‘A tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness.’ The ambitious repertoire included extracts from the celebrated composer Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man, Caccini’s Ave Maria, traditional Iraqi pieces, the theme from Schindler’s List, Gustav Holst’s Planets, and other musical delights, from Dvorak’s Going Home to Annie Lenox’ Catholic inspired Into the West from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. Poet Sarah De Nordwall recited Wilfred Owens’ Anthem for Doomed Youth, and West End actor Alessandro Gruttaduria provided a gripping account of the struggles of persecuted Christians. 

Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need, described the charity’s work in the Middle East supporting persecuted Christians, and introduced Dominican Sister Luma Khuder, who works with Iraqi refugees. Monsignor Nizar Semaan, resident in the presbytery, and chaplain to the Syriac Catholic Community which worships at Holy Trinity, described his project to provide equipment for a medical centre in his home town of Qaraqosh in Iraq, to help returning Christians as they rebuild after the devastation of the three-year ISIS occupation.

The combination of readings and music created a reflective ambience, punctuated by a moment when the church was plunged into darkness and incense was brought up to the altar while bells tolled from the tower above: a moving moment of recollection while our prayers were lifted up to the Almighty in heaven.

Bishop John Wilson along with a young parishioner read an adapted dialogue from the Book of Job on where to find wisdom, followed by a reflection. Towards the end another young parishioner read Psalm 84, which expresses hope that justice and peace will embrace, and that God will bless his land.

Local MP Andy Slaughter’s presence also highlighted the special nature of the occasion, and parishioner Kasia Madera from BBC World News, who compered the event, invited the audience to donate to the retiring collection, which along with subsequent donations, has so far raised £14,000.

It is still not too late to add your support. Should you wish to join our efforts in helping our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East please visit our website at https://www.holytrinityw6.org/ and follow the instructions on how to make a financial contribution to our relief efforts. The money raised will be split equally between Aid to the Church in Need and Monsignor Nizar Semaan’s project.

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