With the attention of the world focused on other parts of Iraq, many people forget that the war continues in Baghdad as well. Last summer 76 people were killed in one of the most deadly bomb attacks in the past 10 years. Several Christians have been kidnapped in the past few months and some have been killed. How does a church survive in this context? And what can the Church around the world learn from this? Open Doors asked Farouk Hammo, a pastor from Baghdad.
How are the Christians in your church in Baghdad doing?
Despite all the violence taking place, we try to live our lives as normal. We go to work, pick up the kids from school and visit each other. Every evening we have activities at the church and most of our members are active in at least one of our ministries. Apart from the images of bomb attacks you might see on television, we also see how full the restaurants are in the evenings. Apart from what you might hear about conflict, we also experience the friendliness of the people on the street. War, unfortunately, has become normal to the people of Baghdad. We experience a bomb attack, bury the bodies and continue. It’s not that it doesn’t affect us, but all these years of war have created a hard skin.
How do you deal with this “hard skin” in the church?
It’s not easy. Because of all these years of war you could say that even the children are born with anxiety on their hard disk. No one in our church has died due to the war in the past five years, but everyone has his or her story. Many of us have experienced loss….loss of family members or loss of earthly possessions. We experience discrimination and a lack of peace. People feel rejection, resentment and bitterness. There is illness because of trauma and there is spiritual bondage as well. We try to care for the inner healing that our people need. We do a lot of trauma counseling and train our youth workers, for instance. I can’t say if that’s enough, but we do what we can and we pray for what we can’t.
How does the crisis with Islamic State (IS) affect the people in Baghdad?
It is a wake-up call. As Christians, we need to stand firmly in our identity. Millions have lost everything, but some have found Christ. For us as a church, the influx of Internally Displaced People has given us the opportunity to “practice Christianity” as I call it, to help all who need it. It doesn’t matter if they are a Christians like us our not. God asked us to be gracious to all.
How does God play a role in your lives these days?
God is in everything for us. He leads us and sends the right people our way. He gives us peace and happiness, despite the situation. Within our church, we experience that He gives people inner healing and releases them from bondage. Really, we are nothing without Him; hope is in Him alone.
What message do you want to share with the Christians around the world?
I would like to say to you all: please wake up. In Europe, a lot of Muslims are entering now as refugees. This is a golden opportunity for evangelism, but watch out for the shark of Islamic extremism. So many churches have been losing their identity and have lost Christ in a way. It’s not too late to go and search for that identity; to search for what Christ wants for your church. If your identity is strong, people will come to faith in Christ through you. But if you have no identity you are receptive to other ideas, those of Islam for instance. We in Iraq are willing to help you understand Islam. We need to stand together in Christ and pray together. That’s how we can change the world.
Open Doors is helping Christians who have been displaced by IS. To help feed a family for $50 a month, go to https://secure2.convio.net/ccod/site/Donation2?df_id=7560&7560.donation=form1&_ga=1.43211565.981393229.1378412015.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.