- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

Many U.S. Christian organizations are mobilizing Americans to pray for the Iraqi people as the country faces the difficult task of postwar reconstruction and cultural renewal.

Through www.operationiraqicare.org, a Web site designed to unite a worldwide prayer effort, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the World Prayer Team, World Relief and other national evangelical organizations are urging Christians to “play an essential part in restoring Iraq spiritually.”

“Today I am asking that the 47 million Christians in America who love to pray according to the Scriptures include in their prayer times prayer for the Iraqi people. The next few months might be the most important time of decision the people of Iraq have had in thousands of years,” said Ted Haggard, NAE president, as he announced the effort yesterday during a news conference at the National Press Club.

Mr. Haggard stressed the critical need for “divine providence” as the Iraqi people begin to rebuild their war-torn country.

“They have to decide whether or not they believe in individual dignity, personal responsibility, due process, the rule of law, principles of individual freedom and liberty,” Mr. Haggard said.

He said that Iraq’s efforts to embrace democracy resemble some of the challenges faced by America 200 years ago as it wrestled with issues such as the role of church and state, religion and conscience, minorities and tolerance. Mr. Haggard stressed that the role of key leaders throughout America’s history was instrumental in this country’s development of democracy and respect for human rights.

“We’re praying that God will raise up in Iraq a George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.,” Mr. Haggard said.

The toppling of the regime’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, has presented the “first open door” for democracy in Iraq, he said, and it also provides an opportunity for the spread of the Christian faith.

The Web site invites individuals and national ministries to “adopt” an Iraqi city as a prayer focus. After completing the free online adoption process, these “Iraqi prayer partners” can download a certificate reminding them to pray. They will also receive periodic e-mail updates on current events and prayer points in their city.

The Web site also encourages Christians to donate money for relief work in Iraq. World Relief, an evangelical charitable organization, will collect the funds and give them to churches in Iraq. Mr. Haggard said this will allow Iraqi Christians to serve their own people and culture, as well as help curtail criticism leveled at U.S. involvement in rebuilding Iraq.

Although Mr. Haggard said he doesn’t anticipate all 47 million American evangelical Christians who are targeted will join the effort, he has “no doubt” that a large percentage of Christians will pray.

“We know that God desires a better future for the Iraqi people. He wants their children to have medical care and an education. He wants them well fed. He wants them to worship in freedom without intimidation. He wants them to be able to discuss the big issues of life: family, government, faith and a future without fear,” Mr. Haggard said. “He wants to bless them.”

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