Dohuk, northern Iraq, Kurdistan. The Iraqi government recently held regional elections; those participating hoped for a peaceful outcome that will help the war-torn regions of Iraq find peace and stability. While the elections were being held, the international borders of Iraq were closed. The military in Baghdad and other major cities were on high alert for any sign of terrorist activity that would disrupt the peaceful and orderly process of people casting their votes. The military itself had voted several days before—as evidenced by the purple dye on the index fingers of the soldiers.
The Beginnings of Revival in Iraq
Iraq is moving into its sixth year since American and Coalition forces toppled Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime that held Iraqis captive for over three decades. War and turmoil has been the air most Iraqis have breathed the last few years; violence and human suffering continue. Random suicide bombers still strike in Baghdad street markets; yet, many continue to hope for peace to come. Some areas are beginning to see security and stability. Indeed, the overall feeling in the country is that Iraq is at an historical crossroad concerning its political future. However, there is an even greater historical event taking place in Iraq—a spiritual revival not seen in modern history.
Although predominately Islamic for many centuries, Orthodox Christianity has been a visible part of Iraq’s historical landscape since the second century. From the early church period until now, Iraq’s ethnic makeup has included Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Assyrian Christians. Yet since the war began in Iraq in 2003, the resurgence of Protestant evangelical believers has been spreading at an incredible rate.
Iraqi Christian Evangelical Leaders Gather
Recently, I visited the biblical plains of northern Iraq near the ancient city of Nineveh. Over sixty Iraqi Christian evangelical leaders and believers gathered for a Bible conference to learn more of God’s word. From both Kurdish and Arab bloodlines, orthodox Christian and Muslim backgrounds, everyone came for one purpose: to see new leaders raised up to become pastors to disciple and lead new believers who are coming to Christ in Iraq in unprecedented numbers. This unique conference was organized through the efforts and cooperation of Iraqi evangelical pastors and leaders from Baghdad, Mosul, and Dohuk. It was sponsored by Mission International, Calvary Chapel, and The Joshua Fund.
During the conference many new disciples shared testimonies of how they had come to faith in Jesus. One man from the city of Najaf shared how he had been raised in a very strict Shia Muslim family. Trained from nine years old to be an imam in the local mosque, he became a part of the infamous Medhi army loyal to the radical Shia cleric, Muqtada al Sadr. When the Americans came to Iraq in 2003, he and his friends took up arms and fought against the Americans.
He shared that his faith in Allah prepared him to become a suicide bomber in order to defend his faith in Islam. Through a series of events, he became disillusioned with Islam and someone gave him a Bible. As he began to read, his eyes were opened to the reality of God and Jesus Christ. He found a group of Christians in Baghdad who showed him God’s love. He became a believer in Jesus two years ago. He is now a fervent servant of Jesus and wants to go back to his city to preach the love of God to his friends in Najaf and to the Medhi army.
We also witnessed the water baptism of an elderly Yezidi Kurdish man from the region of Mosul (or Nineveh), northern Iraq. The Yezidi people are an ancient ethnic group of Kurdish people who have the reputation of being mystical fire worshippers. This man’s story was one of incredible deliverance and God’s grace.
During the intense six days of teaching, several Calvary Chapel pastors took part in teaching through the Book of Ephesians. There were also special classes taught for the women and new believers. At the end of the week, several new pastors and leaders committed themselves pioneer new churches. Many left with renewed courage and faith to continue serving the Lord with great joy and fervor.
Countless Muslims Coming to Christ
This historic revival taking place in Iraq is another wonderful example of the great spiritual awakening that God is creating all across the Middle East and the Muslim world. For the past ten years, thousands of Muslims have come to Christ from within some of the strictest Islamic communities on earth. Believers from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Indonesia are now surfacing to tell of their glorious conversions to faith in Christ. Accounts of supernatural conversions are commonplace, with many testifying to having received Christ after seeing a vision or dream of Jesus himself.
This sovereign move of God is a continuation and fulfillment of God’s heart for the nations that he began on Pentecost. If one will observe God’s word carefully, Acts 2 clearly shows that the early Church was made up mainly of indigenous believers from many of the countries that today we know as the Islamic Middle East. Long before Islam, the faith of these regions was predominately Christian.
I believe God is a God of completion. As his Church was born in the Middle East, I believe these people will, and are, seeing a great revival again. As Christianity was spread throughout Europe, then the Western world, then Asia, God has brought and will continue to bring full circle his plan on earth. The last great revival on earth is happening among the peoples of the Islamic world and the Middle East.