With a chip off of the Constitutional cornerstone, Human Events was first published in 1944, as the the infiltration of Communism rose and the temperature of the Second World War dropped. Over the years, the magazine has been the home of some of the most distinguished conservative voices of the last century. I'm proud to have my article "The Prophet Loves You", featured exclusively at Human Events.
Boston, Logan, Jessie: these names sound like characters from a cheesy detective novel, and in a way they are, because there's a mystery as to why so many of the Iraqi interpreters I met while patrolling with the Marines in al-Anbar Province, were risking their lives to learn more about Christianity.
I first saw an odd ring on the military interpreter's finger sometime during an interrogation of a possible "bad guy". Bad guy was how the 'terps translated a term that roughly meant religious fighter. Even in vocabulary, the nuance of faith had a warping effect on belief and conviction. I pointed to the carving of the praying hands Kent (not his real name) was wearing and asked if it was a Muslim symbol.
Don't get me wrong, throughout Iraq there are not very many signs of religiosity, even in Fallujah, The City of Mosques, you'll see fewer people prostrating themselves on prayer rugs than in Midtown Manhattan. But it's a mistake to deem Iraq a "secular society." The veiled women often cover themselves from head to toe, Fridays are sacred and mosques are the traditional meeting places for the "community".
So, why was Kent wearing the ring with praying hands, hands that were not extended in submission, but folded in acceptance? Sure, there's a beleaguered and dwindling native Christian community in Iraq, but they are few and far in between, like the Iraqis who are curious about Christianity. Another interpreter, Orlando (also not his real name) wanted to know if I had ever seen the Bible in Arabic.
In a strange twist of theological marketing, the winner of the brand that stands for intolerance goes to the religion that wants you to accept a Savior, instead of the Prophet who orders death to anyone who opts out of the flock.
Iraqis like Kent, an English major from the University of Baghdad, haven't really had a choice about the religion they profess. If you are born and raised in most Muslim nations, it's just a given that you've submitted to Islam. Kent told me he was fascinated by a God represented by bread and wine, his voice was hesitant, as if he wanted to confirm that he was getting it right.
In a country that once had a thriving early Christian community before becoming the seat of an historic caliphate, if you are not Muslim, well, you've got problems. In the Iraqi city of Mosul, Father Paul Iskandar Kahben, a Syrian Orthodox priest, was kidnapped, quartered (yes, that means cut in four pieces) and his body meticulously arranged for display to his fellow Christians.
Kent is afraid of a similar fate. As if working with the American military were not bad enough, he has a wife and child still in Iraq. This English professor turned military interpreter, turned Christian would like to come to the United States and he would really like to be open about his re-birth. In a humble voice that slightly echoes the disparate Americans he has met over the past four years, for many, the mystery of the inquisitive interpreters is more than a simple matter of translation.
Matt Sanchez is the recipient of the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award for Academic Freedom, and is currently embedded in Iraq where he is doing the radio programs "In their Own Words" and "Hometown Heroes".