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Iraqi Christians defy violence against t...

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Iraqi Christians defy violence against them by opening new church

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Iraq

This church, and our presence here to celebrate its birth, is the strongest message that we are staying in our land... the forces of extremism are the ones which must change their approach and stop targeting us.

Iraqi Christian

Iraqi Christians have made a defiant move against violent attempts to drive them out of their homeland, by opening the first new church in the country since the 2003 US-led invasion.

iraq-church-nov-104X3.jpg
Iraqi Churches like this one in Baghdad, have come under frequent attack.
Photo: ankawa.com

The church in Kirkuk, where Christians have come under repeated attack, was officially opened earlier this month with around 300 people in attendance. It serves a housing complex in a secure location for around 200 Christian families who have fled violence elsewhere in Iraq, notably Baghdad and Mosul.

Emad Yelda, an MP representing Iraq’s Christians, said that the opening of the church was a message for Christians not to abandon Iraq, and a message to everyone not to target Christians.

In a welcome development for Iraq’s beleaguered and marginalised Christian community, the church and complex were built on land donated by the Iraqi government and with donations, including $10,000 by President Jalal Talabani. Hassan Toran, the chief of Kirkuk’s provincial council, said that the local government “will support the Christians, financially and morally”.

Saad Issa Rowi (55) received a home in the complex after leaving Baghdad last year. He said: “Getting the land [for the housing complex] is like a gift from God, a gift to stay in Iraq, die here and be buried here.”

The number of Christians in Iraq has fallen considerably, from around 1.5 million to no more than 400,000, since the Gulf War in 1990-91, when they became inadvertently associated with the Western enemy because of their faith. For this reason they have been repeatedly targeted with violence by Islamists, who intensified their campaign against Christians following the US-led invasion of 2003. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, either heading to the northern part of Iraq, or leaving the country altogether for neighbouring lands. A hostage siege at a Baghdad church by Al-Qaeda last October that left more than 50 dead, and subsequent targeted attacks against Christians, prompted another flight of Christians from the capital.

Anti-Christian violence has generally been concentrated in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk. Numerous Christians have been murdered in Kirkuk. The most recent was Ashur Yacob Issa (29), who was kidnapped on 13 May; when his family could not pay the $100,000 ransom demanded by his abductors, Ashur was murdered. His decapitated body was found dumped on the morning of 16 May. And churches in the northern city, as in other parts of Iraq, have been targeted with bombs.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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    • Almighty God, we call to You for relief for Christians in the Gwoza area of Borno state in Northern Nigeria, as they face repeated violent attacks by Boko Haram militants. We pray for comfort for the relatives and friends of the hundreds who have been killed, and for the thousands who have been forced from their homes and seen them torched. We ask for Your special protection on Christians as they gather to worship You. We pray for the Nigerian authorities to re-establish control of the area, so that the displaced Christians may be safe from further attacks and free to rebuild their shattered communities. We pray too for their persecutors to come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 18 hours ago

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    • Pray for Bible school students in Vietnam who were subjected to a terrifying night-time raid by police and hired thugs. On 9 June, officers swooped from adjacent rooftops into the church compound that houses the school, while vehicle-loads of people were brought to the site to vandalise the building with bricks, stones and sticks. The students were beaten, punched and kicked before being taken away for interrogation; 20 were left in need of medical attention but were prevented from leaving to find it. Thugs continued to attack the compound over the next ten nights. Pray for the students as they recover from this brutal assault and that they will stand firm in their faith in the face of intimidation. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Aug 2014 00:00

    • In an earlier incident in Saisomboon village, three teenage Christian girls were disqualified from taking their final school examinations because of their faith. The village chief said that in following Christianity, Noi (15), Net (15) and Nut (14) had forfeited their right to education. Five families from the village have now converted to Christianity. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom expressed the view that the authorities were trying to find every possible way “to stop the spread of Christian religious freedom in the area”. Pray that the girls will be allowed to complete their education and that opposition to the Christians in the village will cease. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Aug 2014 00:00

    • Five Christians have been charged with murder in Laos after a sick woman sought prayer at her local church, converted to Christianity and later died. Mrs Chan, from Saisomboon village in Savannakhet province, had been ill for two years when she approached the church. Her health improved for a short time, and she and her eight grown-up children came to faith in Christ. The sons and daughters wanted a Christian burial ceremony, but the authorities forbade this unless they renounced their faith, which they refused to do. When Christians in the area protested, five were arrested and subsequently charged with Mrs Chan’s murder. Pray that the God of justice will have compassion on His people (Isaiah 30:18) and ensure their acquittal from this false accusation. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Aug 2014 00:00

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