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Seminary’s only Iraqi student helping churches address Islam

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–He’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s only student from Iraq, on a physical and spiritual journey that he sees as guided directly by the Lord.
“K. J.,” who asked that his name not be used for the safety of his family, was born into a large Muslim family in Baghdad and raised in the Islamic religion. He was the youngest of six boys, and the eighth of 10 children.
K.J. lived in Iraq until 1980, when Iraq began its eight-year war with Iran. K.J.’s father attempted to get passports for his children to leave the country, but Iraqi President Saddam Hussein soon denied permission for Iraqis to get the necessary documentation. Just before that happened, however, K.J. was able to get a passport through the efforts of a neighbor, an act he credits to God’s intervention.
From Iraq K.J. first went to Yugoslavia and then to Great Britain where he lived for seven years. He said problems with the Iraqi embassy there, including death threats, compelled him to seek another nation in which to settle, and in 1987 he came to the United States. With $1,500 in his pocket, he traveled to Tulsa, Okla., to live with his one other brother who had made it into the United States.
But K.J.’s spiritual journey was just beginning. “I was feeling a void in my life,” he said of that time. K.J. felt no peace from his Islamic heritage, but he remembered friends in a private elementary school he had attended in Iraq. The school had been run by Catholic nuns, and he recalled his Christian friends having a serenity that his Muslim friends did not.
In England, those seeds that had been sown were nurtured as he listened to hymns sung in school and heard Scripture preached. While the message of the gospel was still difficult for him to accept because of his upbringing, it stayed with him.
Once in Oklahoma, he started visiting churches and asked Allah, the god of Islam, for help. Receiving none, he turned to Jesus Christ. At Southwood Baptist Church in Tulsa, he heard the gospel in detail. While intellectually accepting it, he approached God with the same works-oriented viewpoint in which he had been raised, he said. “For six years I was playing church. I was doing Christianity,” he said. “I knew nothing about heart commitment.”
In October 1995 at a Promise Keepers rally, the issues and fear that had been keeping K.J. from Christ were finally broken down. He had been dealing with such issues as the Trinity and the deity of Jesus, which he says are big obstacles for Muslims. On top of that, he said, Satan was using the fear of embarrassment to stop him from making a commitment. Nevertheless, K.J. committed his life to Christ and spoke with a pastor about it, who told him “the distance between heaven and hell is 18 inches,” the distance between the head and heart.
K.J. is now in the diploma studies program at Southwestern Seminary and plans to begin work on a master of divinity next fall. Part of his ministry at the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary is reaching out to Muslims and helping missionaries attempting to reach Muslims.
Concerning the recent strikes by American military forces against targets in Iraq, K.J. said from his perspective they seem ill-timed and likely will carry dubious results. He said the attacks have saddened and angered Arabs, resulting in their hatred of both President Clinton and the United States. In addition, he said, the four days of strikes have been a stressful time for Iraqis in this country, who, like himself, have been unable to reach their families.
He is serving in a ministry called Good News for the Crescent World, a nonprofit organization started by Southwestern professor Samuel Shahid. As assistant director, K.J. helps run the organization and assists with seminars for churches aimed at raising awareness about Islam, which he noted is the fastest-growing religion in the United States. Approximately 100,000 Muslims live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, 700,000 live in Texas, and some 6 to 9 million live in the United States, he said.
“Christians need to be aware of the dangers of Islam,” K.J. said, adding the Muslim religion denies the divinity of Jesus Christ and relegates him to the role of a prophet. But the large numbers of Muslims in this country present opportunities for Christians to witness freely to them without fear of governmental interference.
As part of that effort, the Crescent World organization has set up an Internet site designed to answer questions Muslims might have about the deity of Christ, the Trinity and other Christian doctrines. “It’s a direct tool to share the gospel with Muslims,” said K.J. That site can be found at www.gnfcw.org.
The organization’s goal of raising awareness in churches to the inroads made by Islam is especially urgent, K.J. said, because many churches are not ready to meet the challenge. Islam has changed its image from that it presented in years past, he added. It has been “repackaged” to look more palatable to the West. The goal is to convert the West, including the United States, to Islam.
“They are working under the deceitful veil of cooperation with other religions,” K.J. said.
To fight that, churches and Christians need to be trained to witness to Muslims and to demonstrate through their lives the love of Christ. Actions speak louder than words, said K.J., and by being helpful to Muslims, by being a friend, a Christian can show them the way to peace that only Jesus offers.

    About the Author

  • Cory J. Hailey