Over the next several weeks, Christian leaders from the Middle East and North Africa will be sharing prayer letters with the ScholarLeaders Prayer Community. Religion, especially Islam, uniquely characterizes the region. Despite their ancient heritage and historical contributions since the first century, Christians remain vulnerable and relatively few across the Middle East and North Africa. Against considerable hardship and even violent persecution in some countries, the Church perseveres as a faithful remnant. Today, the region is home to around 15 million Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians. Through LeaderStudies, ScholarLeaders currently supports nine leaders from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. Learn more.
This week, please intercede with us for Ara Badalian in Iraq.
The birthplace of Abraham and Rebecca, exilic homeland of Daniel and Ezekiel, and missional destination of Jonah, Iraq has more biblical history than any country except Israel. Today, Iraq’s estimated 40 million people are mostly Muslims (64% Shia and 34% Sunni). Although a persecuted minority, Christians in Iraq are among the oldest continuous Christian communities worldwide. Numbering over one million before the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq’s Christian population fell to under one million during the 2003 Iraq War. Thousands of Assyrian and Armenian Christians also fled the country between 2013 and 2017, as ISIS seized significant territory in northern and western Iraq. Today, the half a million Christians in Iraq serve as an enduring witness to Christ and His gospel of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation in a land that has seen much enmity and warfare.
Ara is pursuing a PhD in Theology through Asia Graduate School of Theology in Malaysia. His research focuses on dialogue and reconciliation between Christians and Muslims in Iraq. While working on his dissertation, Ara also serves as Senior Pastor of the National Evangelical Baptist Church of Baghdad in Iraq and Visiting Lecturer at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (a client school of the Vital SustainAbility Initiative) in Beirut, Lebanon.
In 2015, Ara’s church received a grant from ScholarLeaders to help care for 600 families that had been displaced from northern Iraq by ISIS. In addition to meeting immediate needs for food and clothing, the church expanded its kindergarten, a key outreach ministry to refugee families in the city. Bible Study Magazine highlighted Ara’s ministry in Baghdad in a 2016 feature. Check out Ara’s 2015 InSights Perspective, A Wounded Memory: The Church in Iraq Today. Ara and his wife Noora have a five-year-old daughter, Aylin.
Ara shares the following message:
Greetings. Hope everything is well.
I am now in the process of writing my dissertation. I have completed the first chapter and am writing the second. The dissertation aims to find suitable ways of rapprochement with Muslims, as they are the largest community we have in Iraq.
Iraq suffers from security concerns, as well as political and economic challenges, especially surrounding the national elections that took place on October 10.
I thank the Lord that the health situation is better now. We have restored all in-person church services and community activities, such as relief work, lectures, and forums.
I ask you to support me, my family, my church community, and our country in prayer.
(1) Concerning my research: Pray for me to finish my dissertation by the end of 2022 and to continue building relationships with Muslims through dialogue.
(2) Concerning the situation in Iraq: Pray for stability in the political and security situation, and for confrontation of the financial and administrative corruption. Pray for elected politicians to lead us in a new period of building the country.
(3) Concerning the role of the Church: Pray for the Church to be a witness of Christ and His love in a context characterized by violence and hatred.