By Brad Long – The Call to Step into the Gap to Pray for the Protection of Christians in Iraq who are Having a “Silent Christmas”
I was deeply moved Friday morning as I read in the Wall Street Journal about how the Christians in Mosul and Bagdad in Iraq are having a “Silent Christmas” because they have received death threats from the representatives of the demonic stronghold of radical Islam. These fears are well founded as last month over 50 Christians were killed when a church in Bagdad was attacked.
By the authority that is given to us in the name of Jesus Christ we are called to pray for their protection and pray that the death-bringing, demonic stronghold will be overcome by the life-giving Jesus Christ.
So please take time out from your happy, mostly not very silent Christmas celebrations to join me in stepping into the gap to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq.
The article from the Wall Street Journal follows – I received it as a call to prayer.
(I urge all of you who are called to high level intercessory prayer to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal it is an excellent balanced source of news that goes into the depths of what is happening in the world.)
Iraqi Christians Make Plans for a Silent Night
MOSUL, Iraq—The leader of Iraq’s largest remaining Christian communities is preparing for a subdued Christmas, marked by a renewed exodus of Iraqi Christians from their historic Middle Eastern home.
Christmas festivities in Mosul, an ancient center for Christianity in Iraq’s north, as well as in Baghdad are being shunned in favor of prayers and masses to protest the targeting of Christians, especially in Mosul, one of the most volatile cities in Iraq. Chief on worshipers’ minds will be victims of a church siege in Baghdad at the end of October that killed nearly 60 people.
Iraqis worship at a Chaldean church Wednesday in Jordan,
now home to thousands of fleeing Iraqi Christians.
Extremists have targeted Iraqi Christians and their churches repeatedly since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein and sparked a near civil war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Iraq’s relatively peaceful political transition and the approval of a new government this week haven’t lessened the sense of persecution among Christians, according to Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona, who leads the Chaldean Diocese of Mosul.
“These are the worst and most perilous times” for Christians, Archbishop Nona said in a recent interview.
Since the end of October, almost 1,000 Christian families have fled Baghdad and Mosul to the relative safety of the northern Kurdistan region and the adjacent Nineveh Plain, which is also under de facto Kurdish control, according to a statement issued last week by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The UNHCR said that between the start of November and last Friday, 400 more Iraqi Christians had fled to neighboring Jordan and Syria.
after recent attacks. Reuters.
Among the estimated 500,000 Christians left in Iraq—half or less of the estimated pre-invasion population of 800,000 to 1.4 million—the Chaldean archbishop is a central figure. Chaldeans, an Eastern rite of the Catholic Church, not only account for two-thirds of Iraq’s remaining Christian population, but Archbishop Nona also filled a position left vacant when his predecessor in Mosul was kidnapped and killed.
Archbishop Nona was ordained at the start of 2010, almost two years after al Qaeda-linked militants kidnapped Paulos Faraj Rahho as he celebrated mass at a Mosul church. Archbishop Paulos died in captivity in March 2008.
The Iraqi government has tried to calm Christian unease with assurances of protection. Over the last few weeks, security forces have paraded captured men they allege are al Qaeda-linked militants responsible for recent attacks against Christians both in Baghdad and in Mosul, and those supposedly planning new ones.
The U.S. military has called some of these arrests “valid.” A U.S. commander said Christians remain a “convenient” target for attention-seeking militant groups in Iraq whose reasoning, the commander believes, is that such attacks usually provoke an outcry from Western governments and media outlets.
The commander said other motives include a desire by extremist groups to “purify” Iraq of people they perceive as infidels, or their association of Christians with U.S. forces.
Hundreds of Christians have been killed or kidnapped for ransom over the past seven years in Mosul. Over the span of two weeks last month, five Christians were killed in the city.
Ashwaq Edwar said masked gunmen stormed into her home in mid-November, shot and killed her husband, Nabil, and left after taking his ID and a cellphone. Later that day a Christian neighbor, Nashwan Khoder, was killed in a similar manner. “They turned my life upside down,” wept Mrs. Edwar, who now cares for her two children alone.
Attackers also recently targeted Christian brothers Raad and Saad Hanna, shooting them at the foundry where they worked. One died instantly and the other bled to death on the factory floor because co-workers were too terrified to help, say several Christian community leaders with knowledge of the incident.
Sarmad Warda, 40 years old, a TV producer and a Christian political activist, fled Baghdad in 2005 with his family to Karamles, a Christian village outside Mosul, when Christians were being threatened and driven out of several neighborhoods by Sunni extremists. Now, he says nowhere in Iraq is safe.
Residents of Karamles have surrounded their town with a trench. Private guards armed with AK-47s watch all entrances to the village.
“Nothing encourages you to stay,” Mr. Warda said as he packed his bags to leave for Canada with his family. “Christianity is nearly extinct in Mosul and the same is happening in Baghdad.”
Archbishop Nona says he is worried about the growing viciousness of the attacks against Christians. “The same scenario just keeps repeating itself, but the methods of killing and targeting are becoming more sophisticated,” he said.
Despite the wave of recent arrests, mistrust remains high that the government has the ability to keep Christians safe. Hundreds of Christian students from towns and villages on the outskirts of Mosul have stopped attending the main university in Mosul despite offers by the Iraqi army to bus them in and out.
“We just do not trust them anymore,” said student Anwar Matti, 26, a native of Qaraqosh, east of Mosul.
Write to Sam Dagher at Sam.Dagher@wsj.com
Learn More: Presbyterian-Reformed Ministries International