By ACNS staff
Canon Andrew White, the vicar of the only Anglican church in Baghdad, said it was "a major miracle" that a bus load of children returning from their First Communion were not killed in a double bomb attack.
Canon White had first alerted his supporters across the Anglican Communion in Facebook and Twitter posts at around 1pm BST. At that time, he believed that some of the children had been killed.
The aftermath of the bombing
Photo Credit: Al Hassan H Fahmi
His post read, "The bus bringing the children back to St George's from their First Communion class has been blown up. At the moment all we know is that there are dead and injured amongst the children. Please pray for them."
This prompted shocked comments and retweets from people around the world.
One news report said the bomb blasts had killed 21 people. A later update by Canon White revealed that thankfully none of the children, nor their teachers had been killed in the attack.
"We are used to bad days, but today has been in a different league," he wrote . "Central to our work and ministry here are our children. One of the biggest services of the year is when some of our children have their First Communion. This service takes place at the end of August. The children prepare everyday with about two hours of sessions. They all come to church in our bus and are then taken home.
"As they were on their way home today, they were caught up in a major bomb. The bus was not too badly damaged and it continued its journey. All of the children started singing the Lord's Prayer. As they were in the midst of their prayer a huge bomb exploded. All the glass of the windows shattered, people fell to the floor injured and one of the teachers was in a very bad way. They were all taken to hospital, but were all discharged as none of them had life threatening illnesses. In a normal country there is no way that some of the teachers would have been discharged. One person was hardly breathing and in profound shock. She was brought to the church and I looked after her until she was more stable. Only then could I leave to visit all the children.
"It was wonderful seeing all the children, despite their injuries they were all smiling. Their parents however were not, some were in floods of tears on learning what happened. The fact is that today was miraculous. When you see the state of the bus it is simply a major miracle that nobody died or was more seriously injured. The children knew quite clearly why, they just kept telling me that they were alright because they were praying and G-d was with them. And He was.
"Many tears were shed and there are huge things still to do as well as people who still need treatment. Please pray for us as we try and recover from another trauma."
Since becoming Anglican Chaplain in Iraq in 2005, the Reverend Canon Andrew White has been dubbed the "Vicar of Baghdad" by the media. He is also President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. He was previously Director of International Ministry at the International Centre for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral, England.
His ministry in Iraq is part of the work of The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & The Middle East, one of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion.