Adel Hermiz Marogi, 47, proudly thumbs through the pages of a thick Bible. The green cover is etched with elaborate Arabic script traced in gold. Then Marogi disappears into the bedroom and reemerges holding a painting of the Last Supper in one hand, a portrait of Jesus in the other. These are among his family's most prized possessions.
But when talk turns to houses of worship here in Al Qa'im, the cheerful Iraqi with the salt-and-pepper moustache and thick black hair shakes his head and sighs.
"Our fathers and mothers tried to build one," Marogi said. "But they could not find the money to do it."
In the barren wastes that stretch from Al Qa'im up to the Syrian border, no one has the resources. The old Iraqi constitution under the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein explicitly protected freedom of religion. It did not protect against poverty. While the dictator would provide free building materials—and even pipe organs—for some churches, this kind of government largesse never reached isolated communities such as Al Qa'im.
Beginning to reach out
Today, however, some are daring to dream again. American soldiers arrived recently and encamped just down the road, at the local railroad station. Marogi plans to visit the camp and ask the Presbyterian chaplain, Capt. Sungjean Kim, to conduct a service, and maybe even help build a church.
"I will speak with the captain and tell him I can collect all the Christians," Marogi said. "We want to have relations, Christian to Christian, and we will be very happy if he can help us have a church."
As Iraq grapples with its newfound freedom, Christians of all types are beginning to reach out, both to outsiders and to one another. Clive Calver, president of the evangelical World Relief agency, just returned ...1