Eleven international peacemakers from different countries around the world will visit congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from Sept. 23-Oct. 18.
They will share their stories about church-based ministries in their countries that seek peace justice and pursue peace in the name of Jesus Christ. This year’s international peacemakers come from Bangladesh, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Madagascar, Mexico, Russia and Sudan.
Dr. Mazen Asaqa was born in Mosul, Iraq (old Nineveh), where he served in the Presbyterian Church in Mosul as youth leader, assistant lay pastor, and doctor in the church clinic. Following the kidnapping and murder of his father, Mazen fled to Jordan and in 2009 he was granted refugee status and currently resides in Michigan where he is studying to practice medicine in the USA. He is interested in the meaning of being Christian and the effects of persecution on faith and church.
Q: What is the situation in your country that you will be addressing?
“I’ll talk about something general about the meaning of being Christian in the Middle East and following your faith. Also, the Christian situation in Iraq — what’s happening, how Christians are reacting, what will happen to them. If we cannot do something for the people there, can we do something for the people here?” Asaqa was referring to the thousands of Iraqi refugees who have arrived in the United States in recent years.
Q: How are the faith communities addressing this situation?
“Being a presence there is part of the fighting. The friction between minority groups affects the church. At the same time, the presence of the Christian community is a point of fear for the community. In Iraq, Christians and churches are not involved in the conflict for power. We want to be loyal citizens. We think this concept, if adopted by different groups, we can sit and talk about this. Or else we won’t have a future."
Q: What lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
“You should know more about what’s happening in the war and the brotherhood than about the sports in your state.” Americans often turn to the sports pages in the newspaper as if nothing else is happening in the world, he said.
Q: What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
“I am so sad and feeling unfortunate by seeing the Presbyterian actions in international affairs getting laid back. We as Presbyterians lose our international vision when we start to think that a man with a weapon can do more than a man with a book or a Bible. That was the original vision for the people who carried the Reformation around the world. Can we retain that vision or not?”