From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Iraqi Presbyterians pursue unity

Date Wed, 20 Aug 2003 16:33:32 -0500

Note #7886 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Iraqi Presbyterians pursue unity
August 20, 2003

Iraqi Presbyterians pursue unity

Creation of synod is part of post-war rebuilding

By Jerry L. Van Marter

LOUISVILLE - As Iraq's churches begin picking up the pieces of their
ministry, severely disrupted by the second Gulf War, the five historic
Presbyterian congregations in the country are forming a synod to better
support each other.

The churches, previously known under various names, are now calling
themselves "National Evangelical Presbyterian" churches and are talking to
other Reformed churches in the gulf region about joining the synod.

"There is some optimism now," said the Rev. Nuhad Tomeh, a Presbyterian
Church (USA) minister who is seconded to the Middle East Council of Churches
(MECC) to coordinate post-war church work in Iraq.

"It depends on who you talk to," Tomeh said after returning to his
Albuquerque home from a two-week stint in Iraq. "Some people are optimistic
that things will improve. Others say that it is still such a chaotic
situation that you can't tell what will happen in the future.

While in Iraq, Tomeh participated in the ordination of a new Presbyterian
pastor, the Rev. Estawriy Arteen Horatian, who will serve the National
Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Basra.

In addition to ongoing concerns about security, the Christian churches in
Iraq are focusing their attention on reclaiming property confiscated after
the Saddam Hussein-led revolution of 1968.

The focus is on schools, which throughout the Middle East do not provide just
educational opportunities but also serve as the locus of identity for
Christian communities in majority-Muslim countries.

"They hope to reclaim their schools as part of the wider process of
rebuilding Iraq's civil society and as part of their ministry to all the
people of Iraq," said MECC leaders.

MECC is assisting the churches by developing consistent legal claims to be
filed with Iraq's governing authorities, coordinating the creation of a new
curriculum and organizing the training of a new cadre of teachers and

MECC opened an office in Baghdad in July. In addition to schools, the council
is trying to meet needs in the areas of health care, vocational training and
help for families to rebuild their homes and businesses.

Information for this story furnished by the Middle East Council of Churches.

(Pictures are available with this story at

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