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The Sermon Was in Arabic: Inside a revitalized, if nervous, Christian church in Baghdad

Fred Barnes

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Baghdad

Pastor Jule's church is new and not easy to find. For more than a decade after selling his business, he devoted his life to preaching about Jesus Christ, but not in public in overwhelmingly Islamic Iraq. In 1999, he started an underground Pentecostal Christian church in his home. And when Saddam Hussein was toppled a year ago, he opened an above-ground church in Karrada, a residential and retail district across the Tigris River from the heavily guarded "green zone" of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The surfacing of his church may not seem like much of a breakthrough. Iraq is 3 percent Christian at most, and Saddam used to brag about his tolerance of Christian churches. But they were mostly churches where tributes to Saddam crept into sermons; they were no threat to his regime. Pastor Jule's church is different. It elevates faith in Christ as one's personal savior over any worldly obligations to the state. The church has ties to the Assemblies of God in America.

Services at the church, though conducted in Arabic, would be familiar to any American evangelical or Pentecostal. I went to the Wednesday evening youth service, which attracted about 250 young people. It began with "praise" music in which stanzas of worship songs were repeated over and over. That was followed by a Bible teaching from the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. Then came intense prayer.

Read this article on the Weekly Standard website.

Posted: 4/30/04



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