Source: Adventist News Network
[March 13, 2007] On the fourth anniversary of the second Gulf War, an interview with Pastor Basim Fargo, leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Iraq, reveals the hardships endured by the few remaining church members in the country.
With the unabated escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq, there is news of yet more bomb damage to the Adventist church in Baghdad. “It is horrible and dreadful to live in such an atmosphere unless we have an aim or a purpose to do so,” said Fargo.
This is not the first time our church in Baghdad has been damaged by an explosion. Can you recall how many times it has been attacked?
"Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, our church has been targeted eight times with car bombs, rockets and other explosive devices. One car bomb in September 2004, packed with 150kg of explosives, damaged the church building severely and blew out most of the stained glass windows. The ensuing fire left us with a repair bill of $150,000."
Can you tell us what happened this time?
"This last explosion was [the] result of a rocket being fired toward the church on February 27. We are not 100 percent sure whether our church was specifically targeted or if the rocket missed its intended objective. Whichever the case, the damage and harm to human life are the same: two passersby were killed and several injured. Fortunately there was no meeting in the church when the rocket fell in front of the new extension building, adjacent to the church, but some previous explosions have taken place during office hours while all the staff were at work."
Before the invasion, the church in Baghdad had some very ambitious projects earmarked for this new extension to the existing building. What specifically were the plans?
"The new building [under construction] is a multi-purpose building. The basement is going to be our new church headquarters for Iraq, plus a music studio and library. The ground floor is going to be a big auditorium. The plan for the first floor is to construct a medical clinic and apartments for church staff and guests. This project was supposed to be finished some time ago, but due to the current situation the work was delayed. We hope by the end of this year we will finish it."
Where do church members gather for meetings and worship services these days?
"After several security alerts and threats, the church members are now obliged to meet in homes every Sabbath. Before the US-led occupation in March 2003, we used to have hundreds of church members. Now, few families are left, due to regular explosions, kidnappings and violence taking place across the country."
What steps have you taken to ensure that our high-profile property in Baghdad will be sufficiently protected?
"We have six guards, paid for by the Christian Endowment Office, guarding the church building on a 24-hour basis."
How do you foresee the immediate future for the country?
"Any place, everyday, at any time explosions and kidnappings are happening. The intention [by the perpetrators] is to create a state of chaos, pain and suffering among the people. Although the government is trying hard to control the situation, there is yet no evidence that circumstances are improving. Just last week more than 100 people were killed, and about 250 were injured in one day! Yes, 100 more Iraqis will never go home to their families."
What about our members?
"The church members who are staying in the country are facing a very difficult time to survive, safety-wise and financially. The violence in the country has led to the rising cost of living. It is horrible and dreadful to live in such an atmosphere unless we have an aim or a purpose to do so.
We thank the Lord for His protection and guidance to His people and His church to this date. God is great."