Michael Yon is an independent journalist and former Green Beret who was embedded in Iraq for nine months in 2005. He has returned to Iraq for 2007 to continue reporting on the war. Here is a portion of his latest dispatch exclusively for FOXNews.com.
Come home, come home,
Ye who are weary, come home;
— Will L. Thompson, "Softly and Tenderly"
A bishop came to St John’s Church in Baghdad on Thursday, where a crowd of locals welcomed him home. They were joined at the service by soldiers from the 2-12 infantry battalion, many of whom had fought hard to secure these neighborhood streets. Members of the hard-fighting Iraqi Army 3rd Division also were here for this special day.
The Most Rev. Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary bishop of the St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Diocese for Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq, officiated standing directly beneath the dome under the Chaldean cross. Speaking in Arabic and English, Warduni thanked those American soldiers sitting in the pews for their sacrifices. Again and again throughout the service he thanked the Americans.
Lt. Col. Stephen Michael told me that when Al Qaeda came to Dora, it began harassing Christians first, charging them "rent." It was the local Muslims, according to Michael, who first came to him for help to protect the Christians in his area. That’s right. Michael told me more than once that the Muslims reached out to him to protect the Christians from Al Qaeda.
Real Muslims here are quick to say that Al Qaeda members are not true Muslims. From charging "rent," Al Qaeda’s harassment escalated to killing Christians and also Muslims.
Untold thousands of Christians and Muslims fled Baghdad in the wake of the darkness of civil war. Most of the Christians are gone now, having fled to Syria, Jordan or Northern Iraq.
The ceremony was long and very Catholic, and since I was not raised Catholic, I would not have understood most of it even if it were all in English. But some of the American soldiers understood what was going on, and they said it was good.
Muslims mostly filled the front pews of St John’s, Muslims who want their Christian friends and neighbors to come home. The Christians who might see these photos likely will recognize their friends here. The Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors and that the Christians never will come back.
And so they came to St John’s in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, "Come back to Iraq. Come home." They wanted the cameras to catch it. They wanted to spread the word: Come home.
Muslims keep telling me to get it on the news. "Tell the Christians to come home to their country Iraq."
Independent journalist Michael Yon’s dispatches from Iraq appear exclusively on FOXNews.com. Click to read Yon's online magazine MichaelYon-online.com.