Iraq: A powerful lesson from the history of Adventist work in Iraq

By Charles Watson (retired General Conference Associate Secretary) Written April 2003

The Seventh-day Adventist Church built and operated the “Dar es Salaam Hospital” in Baghdad [the first full-service Seventh-day Adventist hospital in the Middle East] until 1959 when it was taken over and nationalized by the Iraqi government. All expatriate Doctors and nurses were sent away. The only qualified Seventh-day Adventist staff member remaining and employed by the government was a national nurse, Sohila.

A few months later there was an attempted counter revolution, in which there was an assassination attempt on the life of Premier Abdul Kassem.
He and several of his bodyguards were severely wounded and rushed to the Dar es Salaam Hospital. Sohila was assigned to special duty to care for the Premier. She used all her acquired skills and did her best for him in every way. When Sabbath came, she was off duty and went to Sabbath School as usual.

On return to duty on Sunday morning the Premier said to her, “I know where you were yesterday. You went to Church, didn’t you? Did you pray for me? “Oh, yes sir; we did,” she said. And if you wish, our Pastor and some of our young people will be glad to come and sing for you and pray for you right here, sir.”

The Premier answered, “Tell them to come.” The Pastor Benham Arshat and a youth group came to sing. Dr Fargo read from Psalm 91 and the Pastor prayed. “Please go and sing just like that for my wounded men in the wards” said the Premier.

Soon after this incident Seventh-day Adventists were granted full denominational rights in Iraq. [These rights were continued under Saddam Hussein.]

As you know the believers have a beautiful church in central Baghdad.
Let us pray for peace in this troubled land.

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