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Baptist minister likens Iraqi dictator to Adolf Hitler

DETROIT (BP)–Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein referred to Americans Sunday as “agents of Satan,” but an Egyptian-American Southern Baptist minister who conducts Bible studies for Detroit-area Iraqis disagrees, saying it is Saddam who is like Adolf Hitler.
“Saddam is building nuclear weapons, trying to make himself a source of horror in the area,” says Wajih Girgis, 50, pastor of the 52-member Arabic Baptist Church and the 22-member Arabic Baptist Mission in Garden City, Mich. “He should be removed from office. He is like Hitler.”
Girgis says about a dozen Iraqi Christians, some from as far as 40 miles away, come to Garden City to attend his Saturday Bible studies. The Detroit area, and particularly the auto manufacturing mecca of Dearborn, has the largest concentration of Arab-Americans. Lured by jobs in the auto factories, they began immigrating to the region in the 1920s. Further waves of immigrants have been attracted by hundreds of businesses in the city sporting Arabic signs and Arabic-speaking staffs. Girgis says more than 100,000 Iraqis live in the area, many of whom fled southern Iraq after Saddam suppressed a rebellion at the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
“They hate Saddam,” Girgis said of his Iraqi brothers. “Air attacks hurt the Iraqi people and many here in the U.S. have families over there. They are afraid to say anything. The people cannot speak out because they are controlled by the leadership. If anybody speaks out they are killed.”
Girgis said that a consensus still exists among Arab-Americans on many issues, including the removal of Saddam from office. Yet there is general agreement too that economic sanctions are ineffective and cause excessive hardship for the Iraqi people. The U.N. trade embargo against Iraq appears to be crumbling as a result of Clinton’s most recent air raids. Russian and Chinese leaders are miffed because they were not consulted before UNSCOM — the UN inspectors charged with identifying Saddam’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons — were recalled to make way for the air attacks. As a result, UN Security Council members Russia, China, and France may well lift economic sanctions against Iraq, handing Saddam yet another victory.
“I believe that the U.S. was right,” Girgis said, referring to four days of air and missile strikes against Iraq. Clinton called off the attacks at 2 a.m. Sunday, ending the military action dubbed Desert Fox. Clinton ordered the attacks to cease so as not to interfere with the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month in the Islamic world. Clinton, in his Saturday radio address, declared the “most profound admiration for Islam.” U.S. and British warplanes and Tomahawk cruise missiles hit nearly 300 military and infrastructure targets during the attacks. Reports indicated at least 68 Iraqis were killed and 96 wounded in the strikes, which represented the most severe firepower used since the 1991 Gulf War.
“In every nation you have good and bad people, but normally the Iraqi people are good people, not like Saddam,” said the 50-year-old Girgis. “They are peaceful and religious people. But the people are suffering and many are dying from hunger and a lack of medicine.”
Girgis said many Iraqi immigrants in the Detroit area remain Muslim, while the ones who are Christians are mostly Catholic.
“At our Bible study we try to offer encouragement and comfort to them, reassuring them that God is in control,” said Girgis, who was saved 20 years ago and became an ordained Southern Baptist minister 17 years ago.
“We tell them that God allows things like this to happen in order that something good will come,” Girgis added before citing Romans 8:28. “I believe God is in control and will bring something good of this. We need your prayers.”

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  • Don Hinkle