Nearly a year has passed since the outbreak of the preemptive war against Iraq by U.S. forces on March 20, 2003. Since then, the Iraqis were freed from the two-decades of brutal dictatorship from Saddam Hussein, and opened to the gospel as delivered by courageous missionaries, mostly from the United States.
However, according to EQUIP, despite the long-awaited chance to preach salvation to the Iraqis, only a dozen pastors remain at five-million populated Baghdad. Therefore, in lieu of the "newfound freedom of religion" and the upcoming anniversary, EQUIP began providing leadership training for the future church leaders and pastors in the war-torn nation.
"The priority, what we need in the Church to be growing -- especially as we are a new church -- is to have leaders," said Pastor Jule, one of the Iraqi pastors stationed in Baghdad. "So it's very important what EQUIP is doing around the world, especially in the Middle East, and especially now in Iraq."
The goal, a joint project by Equip and several other Christian groups, is to train 25,000 Christians in the middle East, specifically in Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Churches began calling on Christians and Churches to observe the first anniversary of the start of the Iraq war by holding peace vigils nationwide, March 19-21.