Each month, RPC highlights Presbyterian ministries in different parts of the world, lifting up our brothers and sisters in prayer. This month we turn our attention to Iraq.
Christians continue to flee Iraq. “It is difficult for all the people of Iraq, but especially for Christians,” said Archbishop Georgis Sliwa of the Armenian Church of Iraq. “Those remaining are not feeling any security, especially politically, and have no hope for their children’s futures.”
Attendance at the Baghdad church pastored by Archbishop Avak Asadourian has declined by 85 percent in the last five years. Though their numbers are depleted, the churches’ witness in Iraq persists. Regular worship services still take place, Asadourian said, “but they are quieter and we have some police protection.” The Christian churches in Iraq are not about to give up. “Despite all the difficulties, we are hopeful because we are Christians,” said Asadourian, “and we love our country.”
Among the five Presbyterian congregations in Iraq, only one currently has a pastor. Pastor Haitham Jazrawi of the Kirkuk Evangelical Presbyterian Church writes, "Since the change of the regime in Iraq in 2003, our church policy has been to demonstrate that despite the fact that we are a small minority in our community, we are a people with a holy and noble message of love, peace, and tolerance."
Elder Yousif Al-Saka of the Presbyterian Church of Baghdad said he does not expect the political unrest sweeping through the Arab world to affect Iraq. “The regimes in all those countries are dictatorial while we are a constitutional system,” he explained. “The main problem in Iraq for all the departures is security. If we want people, especially Christians, to return, we have to establish security.” On a personal note, Yousif Al-Saka of the Presbyterian Church of Baghdad asked the Presbyterian News Service to thank the PC (USA) for its unflagging support of the Presbyterian Church in Iraq. “You came to us before the war and after the war,” he said. “Victor Makari, Nuhad Tomeh and others in the PC(USA) have been best friends to us.” (Nuhad, pictured to the right, visited Ronceverte Presbyterian Church in October ’09 as part of the World Mission/ International Peacemakers event.)
Assembly of the Presbyterian Churches of Iraq (5 congregations)
Kirkuk Church Kindergarten and Child Care Center
Nuhad Tomeh, PC(USA) regional liaison (Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, & the Gulf)
Amgad Beblawi, PC(USA) mission work coordinator
Yousif Al-Saka, Elder in Baghdad and Secretary of the PCUSA in Iraq
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