Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Saddam’s Jailhouse Conversion Leaves Officials Stunned, Angers Muslims


AP--Reports are trickling out of Iraq that the unthinkable has happened. Saddam Hussein, the former dictator who is on trial for crimes against humanity, has apparently converted to Christianity. High-level sources from both the Pentagon and the CIA said Hussein has been meeting with a Christian chaplain every day for the last several weeks, and made his conversion official two days ago. Neither the White House nor the State Department would comment on the matter.

The CIA source, who wished to remain unnamed, said Hussein became convinced of his sins and the need to ask Jesus Christ into his life when the chaplain from Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries brought in a man with a rainbow wig bearing a sign that read simply “John 3:16.” The two then engaged in Bible study, and from there, it was a short road to salvation. Hussein prayed on the night of his conversion, “Dear Jesus, I am a sinner. I cannot save myself, and I need you to come into my life. I believe you defeated sin on the cross, and I believe you can save me. Give me your Holy Spirit so that I can lead a holy and sinless life. In your name I pray.”

A third source, believed to be the secretary from the chaplain’s office who transcribed Hussein’s conversion, added that the former dictator wanted to confess in court and make amends for his crimes, including publicly disavowing any references he ever made to the United States as the Great Satan. He also expressed a desire to apologize personally to President George W. Bush.

It is possible that Hussein’s conversion was not as unexpected as many believe. He has long been a fan of the Veggie Tales video series. Since his confinement began, Hussein has kept plush dolls of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber in his chamber. Several weeks ago, the former dictator began a study of Rick Warren’s A Purpose Driven Life. Several CDs of seeker-sensitive Christian music are also reported to be in Hussein’s cell.

Back in 2001, Hussein received an autographed copy of Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez from the author. The dictator said on Al-Jazeera television, “I am intrigued by Jabez, one of the great Jews of history. His prayer is one of power and faith. ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border.’ I read that and realized it was also my prayer.” At the time, however, intelligence experts and evangelicals both assumed Hussein’s interest was only a passing phase.

Reaction in the Middle East was swift and intense. Syrian officials doubted the veracity of the reports, but maintained that if they were true, Hussein should suffer the consequences of falling away from the true faith, Islam. A representative from Iran submitted a press release that included the following: “We have always known Saddam Hussein was a man of weak character, and that he would willingly renounce his own faith in order to save himself.”

In the United States, radio personality Rush Limbaugh wanted to give Hussein a chance. “Maybe he has begun a new chapter in his life. We should allow him the opportunity to back up his words with action,” Limbaugh said on his syndicated show. He added, “This proves that the Bush team was absolutely right about going in there [Iraq].”

Most Washington insiders believe these new events will have little effect on the war in Iraq. In fact, shortly after a rumor of Hussein’s conversion started to spread in Baghdad, a string of car bombings hit the fashionable Jubilee Strip, a street with several Christian bookstores, inspirational gift shops and storefront churches. Hussein’s salvation, it seems, will not result in Iraq’s.

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