From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 08:38:14


                         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 
Baghdad, Iraq. 
     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 
PC(USA) representatives. 
     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 
without anesthesia. 
     "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   Web page: 


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