Salvationists meet in Kuwait
Ceremony of Thanksgiving brings an end to Salvation Army humanitarian program in Iraq.
Commissioner Lalkiamlova (center, in white uniform) with Asian Salvationists in Kuwait.
A significant chapter in Salvation Army history has come to a close. During the week when the world marked the third anniversary of the commencement of hostilities in Iraq, a unique Salvation Army ceremony of thanksgiving was held in Kuwait to mark the conclusion of Salvation Army humanitarian activities in Iraq and to give thanks to God for the emergency response program that has brought assistance to thousands.
Hosted by the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait, the ceremony also created opportunity for Salvationists living and working in the region to assemble. An advertisement was placed in the Kuwait Arab Times announcing the ceremony of thanksgiving and inviting any Asian Salvationists living in Kuwait to participate. The newspaper also published photographs of the evening’s special guests, Commissioners Don Ødegaard (international secretary for Program Resources) and Commissioner Lalkiamlova (international secretary for South Asia), and announced the purpose of the meeting. To see a Salvation Army meeting advertised in a Kuwaiti newspaper was unprecedented.
The response to the announcement exceeded expectations and more than 100 Asian Salvationists gathered, meeting alongside international Emergency Services personnel and representatives from donor organizations supporting the program.
In the seats of honor were 15 Iraqi colleagues who traveled from cities across southern Iraq to participate. It is more than two years since the deteriorating security situation in Iraq prompted the withdrawal of Salvation Army international personnel from its base in Al Amarah. Since February 2004, the program has continued under the direct implementation of approximately 50 Iraqi employees, supervised by a small management team of four international Emergency Services personnel based in Kuwait.
During the ceremony the congregation viewed a presentation of The Salvation Army’s extensive community recovery program. In addition to construction programs—building houses, schools and community centers—education and training programs have taken place. Livestock has been distributed to vulnerable families and job creation schemes undertaken to bring short-term employment to thousands.
Tribute was paid to the many officers and colleagues deployed to this program. During the first year alone, more than 100 personnel served in Iraq, with representatives drawn from all five zones of the Salvation Army world. Many of these people would have loved to gather and meet with Iraqi staff who had become close and special friends during those deployments.
Commissioner Ødegaard read a message of congratulations from General John Larsson (R), presenting a framed copy of the letter to Muntajab Ibraheem, the supervisor of the Iraq staff team. Muntajab, proudly wearing the medal presented to him by Larsson in 2004 when he was admitted to the Order of Distinguished Auxiliary Service, thanked The Salvation Army for its work and also outlined some of the work that has been undertaken by the Iraq Humanitarian Salvation Organization—an independent national non-government organization that has been formed with encouragement from The Salvation Army.
Commissioner Lalkiamlova gave the Bible message. The evening was a unique and historic gathering—as the Emergency Services chapter comes to an end it is hoped that doors may open to strengthen the links made with Salvationists living and working in Kuwait. With this in mind, Salvation Army leaders are looking to launch official pastoral work in the region. Report by Major Cedric Hills