Charlene Rack reviews Kidnapped in Iraq: A Christian Humanitarian Tells His Story by Alexandre Goodarzy.
I wanted to challenge myself by reviewing a completely different genre than I usually volunteer for, and I was obligingly surprised (and informed!) with this true story by Alexandre Goodarzy: Kidnapped in Iraq: A Christian Humanitarian Tells His Story.
Alexandre is a French citizen, and a convert to the Catholic faith. Shortly after his conversion, he was invited to join a mission group (SOS Chrétiens d’Orient) who were traveling to Damascus to help the Christians living there. He agreed to go, and so was born his desire to help the Christians in countries where they are living under threat of persecution.
Kidnapped in Iraq opens with the “chills down the spine” recounting of the capture of Goodarzy and his humanitarian friends in Iraq. It happened on Jan 20, 2020, just shy of three weeks after the assassination of the Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani by way of a United States drone strike, making Baghdad a more dangerous city than usual. We have our own rise in unrest and violence here in the US, but it’s nothing compared to the brutal lawlessness taking place in the Middle East, where simply being a Christian puts people at much higher risk (and, which has been taking place for many years, with no support or protection from their governments).
The author and his companions were just beginning another mission outreach, and had driven into Baghdad for lunch and were leaving the French Embassy when their taxi was surrounded by vehicles and were dragged by force into one of those vehicles. They had no idea what kind of group had staged the kidnapping, or what would be done to them. And so began eight harrowing weeks of poor living conditions, wearing ski masks which were spray painted to “blindfold” them, often no heat, very little food, constant moving from place to place, and daily threats.
Throughout the story, Alexandre weaves in the history of why he felt called by God to aid fellow Christians living in danger. We learn about his frustration with the way things are going in his home country of France, and about his young family: his wife (who spent the time of his kidnapping with little information and constant worry and prayer) and their young child.
What I appreciated most was the geopolitical history of the Middle East, particularly in historical Holy Land countries. (Alexandre had made his living teaching geopolitical history at a University in France, so this is an area of expertise for him.) I was somewhat aware of the aggression and terror brought about by lawless, extremist groups of Islamists, but I had no idea of the basis and the extent of the persecution. (When I mentioned this point to my husband, he said, “I have never heard you say the word “geopolitical" before! And I replied, “I know, and I’m rather ashamed of that fact, especially regarding the subject of this book!”)
In these unsettled areas of the world, extremist groups will come into a country totally unprovoked (with either the encouragement of, or complete apathy from, local government leaders) and will do whatever damage and despicable acts they choose, like laying claim to the property of families, taking all they have and kicking them off their land, or often bombing apartments and other housing. It’s hard to imagine living in a country that would allow such treatment of their legal citizens, but the constant unrest, war and corrupt governments in those countries has led to attitudes of hate and entitlement.
I was impressed by the author’s truthful sharing of the constant nagging of fear and worry throughout his ordeal, which he mitigated with a constant reliance on God’s Will and protection. His courage, love, and faith carried him through. I also appreciated the color photographs and maps included in the book. I learned much that I simply did not know, and never thought to investigate more thoroughly.
I know that readers will be drawn in by Kidnapped in Iraq, and by Alexandre’s sacrifice and witness. Your heart and mind will be opened to the widespread suffering of Christians in the Middle East, for whom we must continue to pray, and work harder to support in any way possible.
Copyright 2022 Charlene Rack
About the Author
Charlene Rack grew up in the "heartland," moved south to Cincinnati, married a Catholic man, converted to Catholicism, and had three children. Along the way, she's planned many mission trips, youth groups, and pilgrimages to the March for life for teens and young adults - all carried out with her goofy sense of humor and her enthusiastic sense of adventure. Read her blog at Grandma’s Coffee Soup.