Monday, October 12, 2009

Adventist Church in Iraq targetted by bomb

A car packed with an estimated 330 pounds (150 kilograms) of dynamite was detonated outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Baghdad late Friday night Sept. 10. While there were no services in progress at the time, a guard was present on the church compound and escaped unhurt.

"Details are still sketchy, but it appears to have been a deliberate attack on the church since there are no other significant targets on the side that was bombed," says Homer Trecartin, secretary-treasurer for the Adventist Church's regional headquarters in the Middle East. As yet, nobody has claimed responsibility.

The car was parked on the side of the building, adjacent to the church vestry and electrical control room, which also served as a storage area. The ensuing fire gutted both these rooms, and most of the windows in the main worship area were blown in. Oweda Wahba, pastor of the Baghdad Adventist Church, who was on the scene within 15 minutes of the blast, feels that the flying glass would have caused serious injuries to worshippers had the car bomb gone off during regular Sabbath morning services.

Local and international radio and television reporters interviewed Pastor Wahba, and news of the explosion was carried on most Arabic satellite channels as well as the local press and Reuters news agency.

Adventists in Iraq have been on high alert since six bombs went off outside Christian churches on Sunday, Aug. 1, killing 11 people. From that time, the Baghdad church board took the brave decision to continue meeting on Sabbaths but incorporated several security precautions, such as erecting concrete barriers, increasing the number of guards, and transferring church services to the basement hall until the situation improves.

This is the second time the church has sustained bomb damage in less than a year. Last October a powerful explosion, which destroyed the Red Cross headquarters 200 meters away, shattered the stained glass windows on the other side of the church.

Michael Porter, president of the Adventist Church in the Middle East, is concerned about the escalating insecurity in Iraq.

"Last month, a member of the Baghdad Church, a mother of three young children, was caught in cross fire on her way to a relative's wedding in Mosul and lost her life. It is hard to imagine the daily stresses the people are under. We earnestly pray for restraint and that the various factions in Iraq will end their quarrels so the wonderful people of this beautiful country may be given a chance to flourish once more," Porter said.

Baghdad Iraq, Seventh-day Adventists believers in Baghdad participated in their weekly services on Sabbath, March 29, say staff members at the church's regional headquarters in Nicosia, Cyprus. It is not clear how many members were able to make the journey because many use public transportation, which is seriously disrupted.

As the bombing of the Iraqi capital continues, there is growing apprehension about the safety of families and friends of regional headquarters employees still living in Baghdad. The bombing of three telephone exchanges on March 28 has rendered communication with several sectors of the city impossible.

One Iraqi worker at the Nicosia office says, "I was very concerned because I heard on many of the Arabic radio stations that some of the residential areas near our home had been hit on Friday. I desperately wanted to check that my family was safe but couldn't get through on the phone. My only option was to telephone an Iraqi friend in Nicosia and ask him to call his family in Baghdad, an area where the phones are still working, to get more accurate information. To my relief the report came back that the rockets had fallen about one kilometer short of our neighborhood."

In a telephone conversation with ANN at deadline, Pastor Michael Porter, president of the church in the Middle East region, said there had been no new reports from Baghdad. He indicated that the church building in Baghdad, which so far has been unharmed by military action, is located about 4 kilometers from the center of the city, in the eastern part of Baghdad, away from areas which have so far been bombed. Source: ANN (c)

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