Jan Johnson
Jan Johnson

Articles: Compassion

A Heart For Iraqi People: A July 4th Prayer
by Jan Johnson

On this July 4th weekend, pastors and priests in houses of worship no doubt prayed for relatives of American soldiers who have been killed in Iraq (1700+, many of whom had children so young they’ll never know their parents) and wounded American soldiers (12,000+), but I wonder if prayers were offered for the Iraqi people themselves. If not, perhaps that’s because they may not be familiar with the life of a typical person in war-torn Iraq.

From examining news sources, I have formed some pictures of typical Iraqi folks and find it helpful to pray for them in the following ways. I believe God of all three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) weeps over the tragedies in Iraq and invites Americans to be part of the healing through prayer.

Here are some pictures of typical Iraqis to use to help us pray:

  • Wisdom for political leaders. On this anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we can sympathize with Iraq’s new government officials who are trying to reinvent their country’s political structures and restore its economy and infrastructure. Yet as they do so, they watch fellow leaders being slain. We also need to pray that Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds unite for peace and progress.
  • Comfort for the grieving. Relatives of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have died due to the conflict are grieving desperately. Many of them are parents since roughly 25,000 of these deaths were civilians and many of these deceased are children (iraqbodycount.net). In war, children are some of the most frequent to die because they can’t run away from bombings and shootings as fast as adults. Nearly every Iraqi knows someone who has died due to the war.
  • Shelter for the homeless. Many Iraqis have been left homeless from the initial and subsequent bombings. Unlike the homeless in my American town, these living in a Third World country do not have shelters and drop-in centers as we do.
  • Work for the unemployed. Many remain unemployed and without income or resources because their shops were destroyed by the bombing. Also, many of the oil well operations (one of the largest employers) are not up and running efficiently. Because the Iraqi army was disbanded due to assumed loyalty to Hussein, many former soldiers have no way to make a living. Consider that many of these folks are making difficult decisions about whether to join the well-paid insurgent fighters. Also, unemployed folks in developing countries don’t have the safety nets we have here in the U.S.
  • Courage and openness for the fearful. The typical Iraqi (picture especially a woman dressed in traditional Islamic attire) is often suspicious and fearful of American soldiers and contractors. According to Muslim clerics visiting the US, typical Muslims in the Middle East think the “US is ruled by the FBI, CIA and Pentagon . . .is a place where Muslims are routinely persecuted . . . is a society of free sex and families in collapse.” Imagine how suspicious and terrified of Americans they might be. We can pray for partnership and friendship between Americans and Iraqis.
  • Safety and well-being for children. Coalition soldiers have sometimes mistaken children for terrorists flinging bombs. Pray also for soldiers’ interaction with them, that it would be friendly and safe. Also, war interrupts schooling (which is usually not free in developing countries) and creates food shortages so that children are malnourished and don’t develop mentally or physically.
  • Hope for the weary. The commodity most lacking in Third World countries is hope. A country torn by war especially creates desperation. and especially short in a country at war.

Such prayers transcend political sentiments about the war. If you were for the war in March, 2003, you see the Iraqi people as the ones the Americans wished to help. If you were against the war, you see Iraqis as victims of the American invasion. Either way, Americans have a responsibility to pray for these people, to weep with the God who weeps over them.


1 Jim Wallis God’s Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (San Francisco, Ca: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 117.

2 Teresa Watanabe, “U. S. Trip Positively Eye-opening for Muslims” Los Angeles Times, “Beliefs” page, Sat., June 11, 2005, p. B2.


This article originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, July 4, 2005).


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