From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
PRESBYTERIAN REPRESENTATIVES ATTEND
05 May 1996 08:38:14
95286 PRESBYTERIAN REPRESENTATIVES ATTEND
CHRISTIAN CONFERENCE IN IRAQ
By Julian Shipp
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--United Nation's sanctions imposed against Iraq following
the Persian Gulf War are having devastating effects on the Iraqi people,
but the international Christian community, including the Presbyterian
Church, continues to serve.
So says Mary S. Zumot, a Jordanian national and member of First
Presbyterian Church of Atlanta and the Rev. Hisham S. Kamel, an Egyptian
national and pastor of Temple City Arabic Fellowship (NCD) in Temple City,
Calif. following their return from the Second Christian Conference at
Held July 4-9, the conference attracted 90 delegates from 30
countries. Zumot, who is vice chair of the Middle East Peace Committee of
Greater Atlanta Presbytery, and Kamel, who is president of the Arabic
Communication Center in Temple City, Calif., attended the consultation as
During the conference, participants heard speeches about the role of
the church in several areas including peacemaking, justice, freedom and
humanitarian service to the community and world. Zumot said deputy prime
minister Tariq Aziz, who is the highest ranking Christian in the government
of Iraq, made a special guest appearance and spoke about the effects of the
imbargo and the U.N. Security Council resolutions against his nation.
Other conference dignitaries included an envoy from the Vatican, heads
of churches from Europe, Latin America, Korea, Australia, and from all over
the Middle East including the synod representative of the Synod of the
Nile, the largest Presbyterian synod in the Middle East.
Also in attendance were several Muslim imams and government leaders.
Theme of the conference was "The Church in Service of Peace and Humanity."
"There is no doubt in my mind that there is extreme poverty and
starvation in Iraq," Zumot said. "I have touched it and seen it. People we
encountered on the street only wanted a little bit of money to buy food
because now [government agencies] only give them two cans of food per month
for the babies up to 12 months old and there is no milk."
Kamel said he visited an Iraqi hospital that was crowded with patients
yet had only one of its nine sections open. Due to the lack of supplies,
Kamel said, the majority of medical operations there had to be performed
"These people have only one thing in common," Kamel said. "They are
afraid of tomorrow."
Zumot said infants and children are dying on a daily basis in Iraqi
hospitals due to the lack of food, milk and medicine. A Jordanian newspaper
recently reported there are four million hungry people on fixed incomes and
one million hungry and malnourished children in Iraq. Zumot said poverty is
currently so widespread even government employees only earn about $5 per
month in equivalent U.S. currency.
But the Christian churches in Iraq are both active and growing in
membership and spirituality and have assumed a strong leadership role in
serving both the Christian and Muslim poor. This in spite of the fact that
Christians only make up about one percent of the population in Iraq.
"The goal is to help all needy people no matter what religion they
are," Zumot said. "If you see a hungry person on the street, no matter what
religion they are, that person should be fed. What [the Iraqis] really need
are for the sanctions to be lifted so they can get the money to buy food
and medicine for [their] people."
Kamel said he preached at an evening revival service that attracted
more than 500 people and even had the opportunity to speak with Iraq's
minister of religious affairs, whom he presented a gold-plated Arabic
Kamel said the Arabic Communication Center and Temple City Arabic
Fellowship plan to collect medicine for the children of Iraq. Additionally,
he said, San Gabriel Presbytery in Asuza, Calif. recently collected
approximately $350 following a presbytery meeting for the churches and
people of Iraq.
In her report, Zumot recommends that PC(USA) churches join in prayer
for a day of solidarity with the Iraqis on Sunday, Sept. 10, create a
sister church program between U.S. and Iraqi churches, ask the U.S.
government to lift the sanctions against Iraq, and support the
denomination's refugee program which sponsors Iraqi refugees in the U.S.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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