Every Christian has an opinion on the impending possibility—now, it seems, likelihood—of war with Iraq. A bishop from President Bush's United Methodist Church appeared in a recent television commercial opposing war with Iraq. The National Council of Churches and its 36 member denominations have backed similar protests. President Bush has made heavy use of spiritual rhetoric in pushing for action. Conservative American Christians have proved cautious, many waiting to hear the administration's full case.

But what about those Christians most directly affected by the conflict? Though many fled Saddam and sanctions in the '90s, more than 350,000 Christians have remained in Iraq. These men and women, who trace their church lineage to Pentecost, are caught in a clash between Eastern and Western powers that echoes a conflict faced by their forefathers in the faith.

During the fourth century, Persia's ongoing conflict with the newly Christianized Roman Empire threatened to destroy the Christians living in the Mesopotamian lands of modern-day Iraq.

Mesopotamia emerged on the New Testament scene during Pentecost in Acts 2:9 when Luke noted the presence of Parthians from Mesopotamia. Soon the Gospel spread to Mesopotamia from Edessa, known today as Urfa, which is located in southeastern Turkey. Edessa was the Assyrian region's major trading center and became one of the early church's most successful missionary-sending cities. This Assyrian Church based in Edessa found great evangelistic success among the Mesopotamian Jews, who shared the Syriac language. The Assyrian (also known as Nestorian) church in Iraq still proudly speaks this close relative of Jesus' own Aramaic mother tongue.

Mesopotamians speaking Syriac in the third century were ...

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