BAGHDAD (Christian Examiner) – Situated on the fertile banks of the Tigris River, the capital city of Iraq has a rich cultural and economic history. The same fertile soil which birthed civilization is now harvesting a violent breed of terrorism geared especially toward Christians.
The fertile soil has also yielded Christians who are willing to stand strong for their faith, even in the midst of death threats and persecution.
For the past 10 years, Maher Fouad, pastor of New Testament Baptist Church in Baghdad, has been broadcasting the Gospel message through radio. Fouad founded 102.9 FM, Iraq's first Christian radio station, to reach Iraqis with the Gospel.
"When we started this project, it was a pioneering project. No one ever applied for a radio station in the history of Iraq, especially a Christian radio station," Fouad told Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).
Fouad started the station to offer an alternative to Iraqis. "During the time, violence was a major problem in Bagdad, with the sounds of explosions and car bombs," Fouad told CBN. "And out of all these radio stations that broadcast violence and negative news, our radio station appeared broadcasting the Gospel and Good News of Jesus Christ."
The violence caused approximately two-thirds of Iraq's once-healthy Christian population to leave the country over the past 12 years, according to a CBN report. Most fled because they were targeted by Islamic jihadist groups.
Still, the radio station's audience is strong, currently reaching nearly 8 million people around Baghdad. In addition, Fouad's ministry is growing.
Five years ago, the pastor started a second Christian radio station in Basra, south of Baghdad, which can be heard in Iran and Kuwait. High Adventure Ministries (http://highadventure.org/), based in the United States, helped Fouad start the second radio station.
Part of Fouad's programming includes prayer. "Not only Christians but Muslims call us live on the air requesting that we pray for them," he said. "We rejoice because many, many people are listening and receiving the message and are responding to the message of the Gospel."
Today, threats to Christians in the area are increasing. "The situation here in Baghdad is not only bad, it is very bad," Fouad said. "On one side, we have ISIS threatening us. And the second danger we face is from car bombs and explosions."
Thousands of Christian refugees in Iraq need help, Fouad told CBN. He's praying the U. S. government and American Christians will choose to help as threats from ISIS become more pronounced.
Even so, Fouad knows his fellow Iraqis are listening to his station's message and responding to the Gospel. He also has confidence in God's protection.
"The Lord protected us, and I believe the Lord will protect us also in the coming days," Fouad added.