Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide - An unusual Bible competition in Iraq - Open Doors UK & Ireland
02 August 2023

An unusual Bible competition in Iraq

An innovative Bible competition in Iraq is helping young Christians deepen their knowledge of the Bible and their relationship with God - and that's thanks to Open Doors supporters like you.

Bible competition
Young Christians in Iraq are learning about the Bible through innovative activities

Can you answer these Bible quiz questions? They’re all questions about the New Testament:

  1. Who describes himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’?
  2. What are the four places that seeds fall in the parable of the sower?
  3. What are the nine fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5?
  4. What are the names of Jesus’s brothers?
  5. What are your feet fitted with, in the armour of God in Ephesians 6?
  6. What reply did Nathanael give when Jesus said, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree?” in John 1.

You can find the answer to the final question in this clip (and the rest of the answers are at the bottom of the article):

In the video, you can see Wiam getting the answer right. She’s one of the young Christians in Nineveh Plain, Iraq, enjoying an unusual and innovative sort of Bible education, thanks to Open Doors supporters like you. Question after question, she and the other young Iraqi believers are getting the right answers – and they’re ready for this competition because of a range of fun activities that have helped them get closer to God’s Word.

“We have an activity today in the Holy Bible, the Gospel of John. We read it and prepare for upcoming questions,” say Wiam. “The contest [is] in the form of a rivalry between two teams in order to collect points and win beautiful prizes.”  

“What did the Lord Jesus ask the Samaritan woman?” is the next question from Saher (name changed), the Open Doors partner running the competition. Again, Wiam barely needs to pause to think. “Will you give me a drink?” she says. Correct! Saher puts his hand in the big glass bowl to draw another small strip of paper with the next question.

Strengthening Christian communities

“They had to study the first four chapters of the Gospel of John for this day,” Saher explains. He’s set up a table in the middle of the hall with two bowls filled with slips of paper. On either side, the two teams sit on sofas. And then, on a nearby table, there’s something you wouldn’t often find at a Bible study – a game board with 20 numbered holes. You can see it in use in the video.

Bible competition glass bowl

What’s the board for? Each of the holes represents a question – when a team manages to get a ping-pong ball to land in a hole on the board, they can ask the other team a question. It’s clear how much the group are enjoying the activity – and, from the ping-pong balls bouncing all over the place, that it is harder than it looks.

The teams laugh and cheer – and it’s all a far cry from their experiences a few years ago, when so-called Islamic State invaded the Nineveh Plain and the Christians had to flee their homes. Years later, many Christians have chosen to return. It takes time to rebuild homes and businesses – it takes just as long to restore communities. Open Doors programmes like this Bible competition help newer believers deepen their faith, and communities of Christians come together.

Deepening knowledge of the Bible

Fahed is a participant who is certainly seeing this: “This participation in the questions about the Bible strengthened me and helped transfer my knowledge to others, and face the difficulties of life and solve them according to the Bible,” he says. “We always come back to the Bible because it’s our foundation.”

"We always come back to the Bible because it’s our foundation." Fahed

Before, Fahed says, he had ‘no previous knowledge of the Bible’. Now, through this and projects run by Open Doors partners – with your support – Fahed has learned and developed enough to become a deacon and a youth leader in his church.

Of course, this Bible competition is about a lot more than memorising verses. It’s an environment where believers can get closer to God. “I learned a lot, I gained the Holy Spirit in the first place from this competition, and the power to talk about and discuss the Bible,” says a participant called John.

“True life is in the Bible”

Father Zakay, the priest of the church where this activity is held, reflects happily upon its impact: “It’s a way to motivate the young people to read the Bible, through a stimulating method,” he says. “This is a new way, more fun, that urges the youth to read the Bible and get to know it better – to draw nearer to the Bible and drink from that fresh living water. Salvation of souls is the most important thing to us.”

could help strengthen and encourage a vulnerable Christian through vital training.

The priest thinks that it is leading to youth opening their mind for the Bible. “They will read the Bible more extensively, will get to know it better and benefit from the experiences of the men and women in the Bible – how they lived, how they solved their problems,” he says. “They were people like us, but they possessed one remarkable thing – they were searching for God. God was in their lives. To be close to God, we have to urge our children to read the Holy Bible.”

It’s clearly working for Wiam. She says, “I learned from this competition to benefit from the Bible, to learn so that I can teach others and give them hope, and that true life is in the Bible and that the scriptures form the foundation of our lives.”

"True life is in the Bible and the scriptures form the foundation of our lives." Wiam

The others agree. This Bible education project – ending in the interactive, innovative competition – has helped change their experiences of reading Scripture and deepen their relationship with God. They feel equipped to tell other people about Jesus – as John says, “If I see young people my age that don’t attend the church, I would be able to enlighten the through the Bible.”

Making hope last

Young believers have been through so much in Iraq, and throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Years of conflict, instability and persecution have threatened to destabilise the church and discourage the new generation of Christians. But projects like the Bible competition are offering new hope and new life to these vulnerable believers.

Thank you so much for helping to make hope last in Iraq.

Answers to the quiz questions

  1. John
  2. The path, rocky ground, among thorns and on good soil (Luke 8, Mark 4 and Matthew 13)
  3. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
  4. James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon (Mark 6:3)
  5. “The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”
  6. “Rabbi, you are the son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Please pray
  • That these young Christians would continue to receive deeper faith and grow in knowledge of the Bible and God
  • That these believers have opportunities to share their knowledge and love of God with others in their community
  • For Open Doors partners to be equipped and energised to serve the church in the Middle East and North Africa.
Please give
  • Every £18 could help a persecuted Christian family establish their livelihood, giving them long-term financial security
  • Every £33 could help strengthen and encourage a vulnerable quarry worker through vital training
  • Every £52 could provide much-needed medical care to four quarry workers for a month.


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