• July 13, 2001
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    Iraqi Convert Couple Stranded
Iraqi Convert Couple Stranded (Compass) ? For the rest of his student years, Amer threw himself into a life of self-pleasure. But in his last year of his studies in the College of Dentistry, the witness of a Christian friend from his hometown finally hit home. It was some 18 months later when he made a commitment of his heart and will to Christ, he said.

Simultaneously, he began to experience persecution. Back home with his family, Amer was pressured by his father to stop reading the Bible. Upset and suspicious, his father soon began to tell relatives and members of their tribe, one of the largest in Iraq, to put pressure on his son to remain loyal to Islam. Amer talked around their questions, and when he left for his military service soon afterwards, the subject was dropped.

Until Iraq lost the Gulf War during his first year at the University of Baghdad, Amer believed heart and soul in the principles of Saddam Hussein. (mural at Baghdad hospital.)

After Amer returned home 18 months later, he met Zuhur, a young woman from his tribe. He told her secretly, "I want to marry you, but you must be willing to become a Christian also."

Zuhur accepted his proposal, and over the next few months, Zuhur was taught the Christian faith by the wife of his Christian friend. She was baptized secretly in a church. Later the same day, they exchanged their wedding vows privately before a handful of Christian believers.

After the couple's big family wedding, Amer reported to work in a government medical center 30 miles away. Iraqi dentists and doctors must work in primary health centers in rural areas across the country for 18 months before they can open private practices.

Amer so liked the villagers and his work among them that he set up a small home-operated clinic there. But to the couple's dismay, several of their own relatives became jealous of their apparent new prosperity. The false accusations spread against them were all linked deliberately to their rumored Christian faith.

Without warning in March 2000, the couple was picked up and escorted from the village to Amer's father's home. Amer was interrogated alone before some 15 leaders all night long.

"I tried to convince them logically that I wasn't really a Christian," Amer said. "I denied Jesus." The next morning his wife also denied being a Christian. Both knew that if they did not renounce their faith publicly, the tribe would be obliged to order them killed, or at least arrested.

Several weeks later, Amer found himself silently crying out to God, "Why, Lord?" And then suddenly, he was praying, "Oh, forgive me for denying You ?."

In the quietness, Amer understood that he must put himself and his wife in God's hands, and try to leave Iraq. A few weeks later, they crossed the border into Jordan. Amer himself sees no solution to their current dilemma in Jordan. The couple's legal visa expired in early 2001 and cannot be renewed, leaving them subject to deportation if caught by Jordanian authorities. Travel abroad is restricted for Iraqis. It remains illegal for Iraqi refugees to work in Jordan, so they have only made ends meet for the past year through work in low-paying, unskilled jobs in restaurants and shops. "Still, not one night has the Lord left us without food or clothes or a place to stay," Amer declared.