Iraqi ‘hero’ honored by Army
Order of Distinguished Auxiliary Service
Muntajab is first Muslim to receive top Salvation Army honor
GENERAL JOHN LARSSON, Mr. Muntajab Ibraheem Mohammed, his wife Nadir and Commissioner Freda Larsson pause for photos after ceremonies.
On a day when Iraq was once again in the headlines of newspapers around the world, The Salvation Army honored the Iraqi leader of its emergency services team in that country by admitting him to the Movement’s Order of Distinguished Auxiliary Service.
Mr. Muntajab Ibraheem Mohammed, who received the Order’s certificate and medal from the hands of General John Larsson at a special ceremony at International Headquarters, is the first Muslim to be so honored.
Describing Muntajab as “a true hero,” Larsson paid glowing tribute to his contribution to The Salvation Army’s relief work in war-torn Iraq.
The citation, read to the assembled congregation by Major Cedric Hills (international emergency services coordinator, IHQ), declares:
“In August 2003, The Salvation Army commenced an International Emergency Services operation in Al Amarah, southern Iraq. The decision to focus our community recovery efforts on this town was influenced by the fine relationship that had been built by our earlier team members with the local community. This had been largely due to the efforts of our translator, Mr. Muntajab.
“It was very quickly discovered that Mr. Muntajab was far more than a translator. He assisted The Salvation Army to develop an extensive community program, establishing excellent relationships with community leaders. Mr Muntajab, now our senior staff supervisor, has provided leadership to our 20-strong team of Iraqi staff and given management oversight to a large number of local contractors.
“Under his leadership The Salvation Army has constructed more than 400 homes, 30 schools, 20 vocational training centers and five clinics. Water pumping stations have been refurbished so that thousands of families now have access to clean water. Sewerage, drainage systems and street lighting have been installed throughout large areas of the town—greatly improving the quality of life for hundreds of families.
“During the period of operation, more than 40 Salvation Army personnel have been deployed to work in Al Amarah. Mr Muntajab has sacrificed his family life to ensure the personal safety of team members, making necessary arrangements for team security under very difficult circumstances. Mr Muntajab has not flinched from this task, even under armed attack, and serving the needs of our international personnel has been his priority. With short-term deployments leading to regular staff changes, Mr Muntajab has provided the consistent leadership that has underpinned our program.
“The deterioration in security led to the withdrawal of international personnel in April 2004. Since this time our program has continued unhindered. Mr Muntajab has implemented on behalf of The Salvation Army a US$1 million “Returnees Recovery Program” sponsored by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
“Mr Muntajab, a Shia Muslim, has shown the highest respect for Salvation Army principles, promoting the ministry and reputation of The Salvation Army at every opportunity, ensuring that our programs target the needs of the most vulnerable and that our objectives have not been compromised. Thousands of Iraqis in Al Amarah have had their lives improved by The Salvation Army’s community recovery program. The good reputation currently enjoyed by The Salvation Army in Iraq is testimony to Mr Muntajab’s distinguished and committed service.”
A spontaneous ovation from International Headquarters staff and specially-invited guests greeted the General’s presentation of the award to Mr Muntajab. In response, a visibly moved Mr Muntajab declared himself at a loss for words to express his appreciation for the honor.
“The Salvation Army,” he said, “has given the Iraqi people the hope, peace and love they have missed for 35 years.” He and his fellow Iraqis are Muslims, he said, but there were no barriers between them and Salvationists. The forging of links between them had been God’s work. “The people of Iraq love The Salvation Army, because they have brought a message of love from God,” he declared.
After the Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Israel L. Gaither, prayed God’s blessing on the occasion, further spontaneous applause demonstrated the approval of the congregation for the historic honor bestowed on Mr Muntajab.
Before leaving the Assembly Hall of William Booth College, where the ceremony took place during IHQ family prayers led by Commissioner Margaret Taylor (IHQ), Mr Muntajab personally greeted the large number of Salvationists present who had served alongside him in Al Amarah as part of the Army’s community recovery program in Iraq.
The Order of Distinguished Auxiliary Service was instituted by General George Carpenter in 1941 to mark The Salvation Army’s appreciation of distinguished service rendered by non-Salvationists who have helped to further its work in a variety of ways.
Report by Major Charles King
Editor in Chief and Communications Secretary