When throngs of Iraqis began converging on Baghdad’s main square in peaceful protest more than a year ago, a highly educated businessman made sure he was there on the first day – Oct. 1, 2019.
Samer Jawad* joined thousands of others in Tahrir Square frustrated at a faltering economy and breakdowns in public services. Demonstrations went on for months, spreading to central and southern provinces, with various groups in Tahrir Square setting up tents.
Protestors included scientists, doctors, engineers and intellectuals, and Jawad visited tents filled with well-documented books on political and economic issues.
The leader of a ministry based in Iraq also set up a tent in Tahrir Square – eager to show solidarity with the protestors’ desire for basic rights and seeing a unique opportunity to reach a broad cross-section of the population with the gospel. Over the ensuing weeks, local missionaries maintained their presence in the square even as demonstrations met with tent-burnings, armed militias and a government military response that killed at least 700 people and injured more than 2,700 others.
Intrigued by the Christians’ tent, one day Jawad happened by and found a wide variety of Christian books, the scope of which he had never imagined.
“Samer is an educated and rational person who always faces any argument using logic,” the ministry leader said. “He got a copy of the gospel after he expressed a strong desire to read it. He said, ‘Throughout my entire life, I had hoped to get the Bible, but I had no opportunity.’ He had many questions about the Christian faith during the months of protests and visits to our tent.”
The tent was staffed by a well-trained team to proclaim the message of Christ’s salvation and, if necessary, to discuss objections that Muslims might have, the leader said.
“Samer asked Jesus Christ to be his personal savior and started attending local church meetings,” he said. “He told us, ‘Who would have believed that I would meet Christ in the midst of this great revolution in Tahrir Square in Baghdad?’ He has now shared Christ with his three brothers and three sisters.”
The arrival of the novel coronavirus in 2020 helped put an end to the crowds in Tahrir Square, but not before the Lord used the protests to reach many people with the message of eternal life, the leader said.
“Despite the tension in Tahrir Square, the burning of tents and the intervention of armed militias, the Lord gave us a great opportunity to share the gospel with hundreds of people, distribute more than 4,000 New Testaments to the protestors, pray with many of the wounded and offer condolences to the families of those who were killed during the demonstrations,” he said.
Word and Deed
Local missionaries delivering aid to refugees and internally displaced people in Iraq are also trained to proclaim the gospel, and they have had more opportunies as the coronavirus pandemic has ratcheted up need for aid.
“Our work for the Lord also allows us to present the gospel message and Bibles to every house and tent we enter,” the leader said. “We pray with each family and present Christ to them.”
In the early months of the pandemic, local missionaries were able to bring aid and the gospel to needy people throughout the country – distributing 4,000 Bibles to Muslims and seeing 14 families put their faith in Christ, he said.
“We know that the Lord is being glorified through these difficult circumstances,” the leader said. “Trials and affliction soften hardened hearts and prepare the way for the Holy Spirit do His work as we present the gospel of salvation.”
Establishing churches was more difficult as measures to contain the pandemic came into effect, but individual families held worship meetings in their homes, he said. Local missionaries were able to disciple newly believing families online, holding Bible studies through WhatsApp texts or social media chats.
Displaced and Ill
Most of the native ministry’s work is directed toward the continually growing number of displaced people and refugees, especially as they have been hit hard by the pandemic.
“The pandemic has placed its weight heavily on them, which opens the door for us to intervene and help,” the leader said. “As we do this work, we present Christ and share the gospel with many, and the results of people interacting with the work of the Holy Spirit are amazing.”
Workers continue to serve thousands of suffering people through a mobile medical clinic, providing treatment and medicines to those who would otherwise have no access to health care, he said. At the same time, local missionaries focus on the children of refugees and the internally displaced.
“Children are the most affected,” the leader said. “We do our part by providing them with food, medicine and clothing, with a focus on delivering the Bible and the gospel to every child we serve. We sometimes reach more than 200 children a month.”
Local missionaries are tending to such needs throughout Iraq. Please consider a donation today to help them bring healing and salvation to suffering people.
*Name changed for security reasons