The deadly assault on the church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad in October 2010 made international headlines. 58 people lost their lives. Father Thaer, the martyr-church priest, had asked our local drama team to perform for the children at the church. He had been deeply impressed with our two previous performances, especially how we present God’s Word to the kids. But Father Thaer had been killed in the attack, and his invitation was on hold.
During all this period, there was a voice in Tahmi* who leads our work in the Iraki capital, asking him when he was going to present the program. A difficult question to answer since the church had halted all its programs and masses since the attack. But the voice in Tahmi persisted. So, he went to the church and spoke to another priest saying that we would like to go ahead with the program. The priest was thrilled and fixed a date in February 2011 that coincided with the beginning of the children’s catechism program.
The church chose a theme for the day: “We will continue our prayers; our ministry will return; we will not stop”. On that memorable day, our team took a message of love and hope to every person present. The team was welcomed with great joy. Smiles and laughter were clear on the faces of the 60 children and their leaders. When the Grain of Wheat team left it was with a promise to come back.
22-year-old Tahmi leads our work with children in Bagdad. He takes particular interest in organising street theatre. This young man has a burning desire for God and he fills me with both admiration and fear. The Director of our local partner even asked me to dampen Tahmi’s enthusiasm. She was not only worried about him, but also about the attention he might attract to the centre. What did Tahmi have to say about all this? Here is an extract of a conversation I had with him.
– Salaam, Tahmi. How are you?
– I’m well, thanks to God’s grace. I’ve been unable to do a lot for the ministry lately. I’m sorry, Raja. I apologise.
– I don’t care ! The thing that matters is your life ! How can you apologise? The situation calls for you to keep a low profile, you know.
– I know, with the church bombing and everything. Look, it’s hard here but we want to stay. What God has in store for us is so much bigger than what we have been through…
– Listen, Tahmi, I understand. I don’t have any orders to give you, Oueldi (my son). But listen to me: firstly, never take unnecessary risks and secondly, never do anything without the support of your team.
– OK, I’ll do as you say. Tell me, my father is trying to officially register the work we do here. What do you think?
– That would be great, but is this really the best moment? But now that I think of it, we did register Grain of Wheat Lebanon during the war, such a dangerous time ! How wonderful that your father wants to help us !
– Ha (laughing)! He would like me to finish my studies, settle down and get married. Personally, I would like to work for Grain of Wheat.
Tahmi already does full time volunteer work for the children of the Iraqi capital anyway.
Baghdad’s Christian population is now less than a tenth of what it once was. Foreign missionaries have all headed North or returned home. Only indigenous Christians remain throughout the rest of the country. The worsening situation for Christians, initiated by the fall of Saddam Hussein, continues. Please remember Iraq.