Since the middle of 2014 Islamic State (IS) jihadists have advanced rapidly across Iraq expelling Christians from their homes, and seizing their properties and businesses. The group’s behaviour is brutal. The family of a kidnapped church leader, for example, managed to find money to pay the ransom, but just hours later, he was murdered and his body cut up. Pieces of him were sent in a box to the family.
Tens of thousands of Christians in northern Iraq fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs seeking refuge in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, where they continue to live as displaced people. Even in Baghdad, almost 70% of Christian homes have been illegally expropriated, their title deed documents falsified and given to other Iraqi citizens. Many believers have been abducted and killed.
The rise of IS is only the latest threat to Christians who have suffered numerous attacks since the Gulf War of 1990-1, with their treatment deteriorating dramatically after the 2003 US-led invasion which resulted in widespread lawlessness after the removal of Saddam Hussein. Under Saddam’s Iraq, Christians could practise their faith in safety and there were almost 1.5 million Christians living in the country. Today there are fewer than 300,000 Christians remaining in the country. Now split between Sunni and Shia areas and Iraqi Kurdistan, which has its own government, there are signs that the Iraqi state could completely disintegrate. In its quest to create an Islamic caliphate in the region, IS militants have turned churches into mosques, stripping them of crosses, and hoisting jihadi flags over their domes. They have taken sledgehammers to Christian graves in Mosul, lifting out the crosses engraved on headstones. In late 2014, IS issued a document standardising the prices at which they would sell Christian and Yazidi women and children who had been captured.
Pray for Iraq’s displaced Christian community, struggling to survive poverty and living under a cloud of terror. Pray that the Lord will comfort those who have lost loved ones in attacks, and that He will provide for those who have lost their breadwinner. Ask for the safe release of the women and children who have been made slaves for jihadists. Pray that many IS militants will come to know the Lord and that there will be an end to the group’s violence against Christians and all lraqi people.
This article reprinted from: Praying For The Persecuted Church 2016, Published by Barnabas Fund.
See http://www.barnabasfund.org for more information.