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WikiLeaks: 2009-10-06: 09BAGHDAD2683: Evangelical Churches Find Path to Official Recognition Blocked

by WikiLeaks. 09BAGHDAD2683: October 06, 2009.

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 09:38 AM UT


Viewing cable 09BAGHDAD2683, EVANGELICAL CHURCHES FIND PATH TO OFFICIAL

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09BAGHDAD2683 2009-10-06 09:33 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO5003
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2683/01 2790933
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 060933Z OCT 09 -ZDK- DUE TO MULTIPLE REQUESTS
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4963
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 002683 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/30/2019 
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PGOV SOCI IZ
SUBJECT: EVANGELICAL CHURCHES FIND PATH TO OFFICIAL 
RECOGNITION BLOCKED 
 
REF: BAGHDAD 1426 
 
BAGHDAD 00002683  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
Classified By: Acting Political Counselor William Roebuck for Reasons 1 
.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) A key Iraqi Evangelical Church leader tells us that 
Evangelical Churches are unable to obtain official 
recognition from the GOI because of overly stringent 
registration requirements imposed by the non-Muslim 
Endowment, thus preventing these churches from conducting 
legally sanctioned marriages and baptisms.  Officials from 
the non-Muslim Endowment admit that the registration bar has 
been set high, but they argue that their intent is to shield 
Iraq's Christian community from scrutiny that would be 
brought about by evangelical proselytizing.  Leaders of 
Iraq's officially recognized churches express similar 
concerns and have expressed their intent to block the 
registration of Evangelical Churches.  END SUMMARY. 
 
-------------------------------------- 
The Quest and Criteria for Recognition 
-------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) On September 24, Poloff met with Pastor Maher Fouad 
Douad, the Secretary General of the Society of Evangelical 
Churches, to discuss his organization's concerns with respect 
to obtaining official government registration.  Douad stated 
that his church, the New Testament Baptist Church, began 
holding regular services after the fall of the former regime 
in 2003 and currently has 40-50 parishioners.  Douad stated 
that prior to 2003 he worked as a minister with the 
Presbyterian Church -- one of two Protestant Churches legally 
sanctioned as part of the 14 officially recognized Christian 
churches in Iraq -- but that the Presbyterians suspended his 
membership when he founded his own church.  Since that time, 
Douad and other Evangelical church leaders have sought 
official recognition from the GOI so that they can perform 
legally sanctioned marriages, divorces, and baptisms. 
 
3. (C) According to Douad, a number of Evangelical churches 
currently operate in the provinces of Baghdad, Erbil, Dohuk, 
and Sulemaniya including: the United Church, the Alliance 
Church, the Baptist Church, the Nazarene Church, the 
Apostalic Church, the Holy Spirit Church, and Holy 
Resurrection Church.  Under Iraqi law, recognition of new 
churches falls under the authority of the non-Muslim 
Endowment.  Daoud showed Poloff a letter dated April 13, 2004 
that he had received from Non-Muslim Endowment Director 
Abdullah al-Naufali outlining the five criteria for 
registering a new church in Iraq.  The criteria include: 
approval by the Bishops Council (i.e., the representatives of 
the 14 currently recognized churches), 500 members who are 
over the age of 18, a letter from each of the members stating 
that they are no longer members in any other church, that the 
founder of the church is Iraqi, and that the church agrees to 
respect all other religions.  Douad expressed frustration 
that these requirements were virtually impossible to meet. 
Similarly, Father Ghasan Yousif Audish of the Evangelical 
Church based in Erbil told Poloff in May that he has had 
difficulty registering his church in the KRG (reftel). 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
Opposition from Endowment and Established Churches 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
4. (C) Al-Naufali confirmed to Poloff that the Endowment had 
instituted the aforementioned criteria for the registration 
of new churches because it wanted to avoid the "chaos" of 
large numbers of new churches suddenly operating in Iraq 
after 2003.  Al-Naufali stated that he had personally met 
with the heads of 18 different Evangelical Churches that were 
Qwith the heads of 18 different Evangelical Churches that were 
seeking recognition in Iraq.  Al-Naufali's greatest fear with 
respect to the new churches was that they would begin to 
proselytize to Muslims and that any conversions they might 
succeed in making would only generate violence against Iraq's 
Christian community as a whole.  The head of the Christian 
Endowment, Ra'ad Shammaa, expressed his opinion to Poloff 
that the new churches appearing in Iraq were NGOs and not 
really churches.  Both al-Naufali and Shammaa also pointed 
out that Iraq already recognized two Protestant/Evangelical 
Churches -- the Presbyterians and Seventh Day Adventists -- 
and questioned the need for more. 
 
5. (C) Christian religious leaders expressed opposition to 
the Evangelical Churches on the grounds that they only 
prosletyze amongst fellow Christians and thus take 
parishioners from the established churches.  On August 5, the 
head of the Bishops Council, Archbishop Avak Asadourian of 
the Armenian Orthodox Church, told Poloff that the 
established churches could not accept the presence of the 
Evangelicals and would "not allow them to be recognized." 
Similarly, Chaldean Bishop Shlaimon Wardouni expressed anger 
 
BAGHDAD 00002683  002 OF 002 
 
 
at the presence of the Evangelical Churches, claiming that 
they had ridden into Iraq on the back of American tanks. 
Wardouni was incensed by the case of a Christian woman who he 
claimed had been married in an Orthodox Church, but who had 
allegedly been granted a divorce and remarried by an 
Evangelical Chruch operating in Sulemaniya. 
 
6. (C) COMMENT: It is clear that the Evangelical Churches in 
Iraq face an uphill battle in securing official recognition 
from the GOI given the hostility that they face from the 
established churches and the equal parts caution and 
skepticism shown them by the GOI.  Some of the hostility may 
also stem from the much reduced presence of the Christian 
community in Iraq due to the displacements that have taken 
place since 2003.  With a smaller community presence, the 
established churches may be extremely sensitive to the 
possibility that new churches might draw some of their 
remaining parishioners away.  Given the influence of the 
established churches on the non-Muslim Endowment the criteria 
for registration are unlikely to be eased any time soon.  END 
COMMENT. 
HILL

 



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