Sunday, May 21, 2006

Interview with an Iraqi

Well, it wasn’t so much an interview as a conversation, but the alliteration sounds cool.

Ramsis (Not his real name. I don’t know if using his real name would get him in trouble, so I am going to err on the side of caution) is a student at Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo (ETSC), where I work. He is from Basra, in the south of Iraq, and is one of the friendliest guys I have ever met. I see him occasionally at lunch in the large dining area for all of the seminary students. He always smiles broadly at me and wishes me a good day. He is living proof of something I never would have thought existed: a Christian Iraqi. I think the thought that all Middle-Easterners are Muslim has been drilled into my head so much by the media that I am continually surprised when I hear about Christians in places such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. If I have learned nothing else this year, I am privileged to have learned about fellow Christians and the way they live in this region.

One day Ramsis invited me to his dorm room, which he shares with an Egyptian roommate, to drink some hot tea and talk. I wrapped up my work a little early that day because I was excited at the prospect of talking with him. Ramsis invited me in and showed me all of his pictures, which were displayed all over the walls and shelves. There were pictures from his home, some of his family, and a few from his trip to Harvard University. He was the only Christian in the contingent of Iraqis that went on that particular trip. The rest were Muslims. He proudly talked about the people he had met at Harvard, and showed me his mug with bright red letters on it that spelled out the school’s name (He later let me use it to drink my tea).

We began talking, and of course I was eager to talk about what it is like in Iraq right now. He is able to keep in touch with family by using an internet café down the street so he stays informed. He said the situation was getting worse and worse, but not for the reasons I suspected. He said the problems in Iraq have more to do with factions of Muslims fighting each other than anything else. Sunnis and Shias don’t get along very well apparently. He seems quite certain that Shias from Iran have been pouring over the border to exact revenge against the Iraqis who won a war against Iran years ago. That’s why you hear things in the news about mosques being blown up. Unfortunately Christians are literally caught in the crossfire.

Ramsis says that during the days of Saddam, Christians were much better off. He agrees that Saddam was indeed a horrible tyrant, and he is glad Iraq is rid of him, but there was much more stability than there is now. He says the security situation in Iraq is becoming worse and worse and the American forces are taking the blame.
But, this is the part of the conversation that I was surprised about: Ramsis also said that since the war began there have been many more Iraqis converting to Christianity. He said that it has been happening in secret, that people aren’t out professing their faith openly, but that more and more people are converting to Christianity covertly; much more than Christians converting to Islam. He sounded very enthused about this. I am sure that if I came from a country where I was one Christian in an oppressed minority, I would be excited about that too.

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