A multipurpose Baptist center that will include a church, seminary, medical clinic and school will be built in northern Iraq.
Christians in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan have been granted two acres of land worth nearly $2 million to build the Grace Baptist Cultural Centre in the town of Simele.
Christians in Simele have a tragic history. In 1800, they were forced out of their homes and massacred, and in 1933, an estimated 3,000 Assyrian and Chaldean Christians were slaughtered by the Iraqi government.
But in recent times, northern Iraq has become a refuge for thousands of Christians.
The land was granted by the Dohuk regional governor Tamar Ramadhan. Gurgis Shlaymun, the deputy governor, said there was a great deal of support for the project.
He welcomed the Baptist interest in “each family and each sickness,” and added, “Our purpose and your purpose is to make a good generation.”
The four-phase project will be developed by Iraqi Baptists in partnership with Hillcrest Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., and Brazilian and Jordanian Baptists.
The first phase of the facility, a clinic for women and children, will be completed next year.
The Baptist school would have the responsibility to teach “the universal principles of kindness, respect, compassion, human rights, charity, dignity, equality and peaceful co-existence among every Kurd, Assyrian, Arab, Chaldean, Turkmen, Syriac and Armenian,” according to Brian Barlow, missions pastor at Hillcrest.
Farouk Hammo, pastor of The National Evangelical Church in Baghdad, said he and others had dreamed about such a center being established in Iraq.
“Our God had a dream. We see this promise from God in Isaiah 19:25, “Blessed be the work of my hand, Iraq.”
“Thanks for our God and for his plan for us.”
A number of Baptists and other evangelical Christians attended a ceremony with local officials to mark the occasion in October.
The guests included Nabeeh Abbassi, former president of the Jordan Baptist Convention and pastor of West Amman Baptist Church.
He spoke on behalf of the Baptist World Alliance and the European Baptist Federation.
Abbassi said the history of the Baptist church of Iraq is still being written. He thanked God for the “unique Kurdish leadership” for providing security and comfort.
We pray that God will protect the Iraq people and leadership,” Abbassi continued.
“We walk with you on the same path. Our prayers follow you with all that you do to improve the future of Iraq and the Kurdistan region to include its achievements towards a greater horizon.”