Iraq: Remembering Sattar

by Stewart Vriesinga

Sattar Hattem served as a translator and mentor for CPT-Iraq when the team was based in Baghdad.  His death in October prompted outpourings of deep feeling from CPTers who worked with him. 

Sattar was much more than a translator.  As CPTer Allan Slater said, “He embodied so much of what we were trying to be.”  He shared our vision and helped shape us.  He was a Muslim who clearly understood and fully supported the essence of what it was we were trying to accomplish.   Sattar was humble, reflective, quiet, and a very deep listener.  When he did speak, it was always heart-felt and well considered.  He opened our eyes to our own cultural blind spots, and would gently and lovingly explain to us when our actions might be misconstrued or counterproductive in the local context.    

One such incident that comes to mind happened during a public action.  After a scripture reading, I placed the Bible on the ground.  Sattar quickly picked it up, and later explained to me that in the Muslim/Iraqi context it is “haram” (forbidden) to place a holy book on the ground.  (In Islam, holy books include the Torah and Christian Bible as well as the Qur’an).

They say he died of heart failure.  I am not surprised.  There is probably a limit to how much an open heart can take.  Maybe Sattar simply loved too much.  I will always be grateful for everything he taught us.