When Iraqi troops moved in to occupy Kuwait on August 2, missionaries Jerry and Jacque Zandstra were in the U.S. on furlough. They were forced to postpone their August 27 return to Kuwait, since foreigners were banned from the country.
Zandstra, 51, pastors Kuwait’s National Evangelical Church, a mission church of about 1,200 English-speaking people supported by the Reformed Church in America. (The church also has separate Indian and Arabic congregations). He knows that Iraq’s track record does not bode well for missionaries to Kuwait. Missionaries were forced out of Iraq in 1969. Prior to that, several Protestant denominations had missionaries in Iraq.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Iraqi constitution. And some Christian communities remain, where Christian instruction is allowed in school. Nevertheless, said Zandstra, “Our concern is that if Iraq stays in Kuwait, they may perpetrate the same pattern as they did in Iraq, which is the restriction of religious freedom.”
Before the recent occupation, Kuwait allowed missionaries and has had a sturdy, yet small, community of Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic backgrounds.
According to the National & International Religion Report, at least one missionary family may still be in Kuwait. Southern Baptist missionaries Maurice and Laurie Graham and their two young sons were moved to the American Embassy after the Iraqis began rounding up Westerners to be used as “human shields.” Their whereabouts was unknown at press time. Other “tent-maker” missionaries may still be in Kuwait, but are harder to track because of their secular work.
In the area that produced Saddam Hussein and the ayatollahs, Christianity ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more