Wednesday, May 1, 2013

RLPB 208. IRAQ: Danger as sectarian war looms

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 208 | Wed 01 May 2013

IRAQ: DANGER AS SECTARIAN WAR LOOMS
By Elizabeth Kendal

The last US troops left Iraq on Sunday morning 18 December 2011. Ahead of that day, this prayer ministry issued a call to prayer which now provides essential background to today's reality. 
See IRAQ: PROPAGANDA VERSUS REALITY
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 138 | Wed 14 Dec 2011

As soon as the US vacated Iraq, al-Qaeda in Iraq got to work, regrouping and rebuilding. It also developed a potent fighting force inside Syria: the Al-Nusrah Front which is currently leading the rebel forces in the battle for Syria.

On Tuesday 23 April at 5 am the Shi'ite dominated Iraqi security forces raided a Sunni protest camp in the northern city of al-Hawijah in Kirkuk province. For months, some 4000 Sunnis have been protesting in the streets, calling for Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's resignation. They accuse the Shi'ite-dominated government of persecuting the Sunni community and detaining Sunni civilians on spurious accusations of involvement in terrorism. Many believe Maliki, a Shia, is seeking to bolster his Shia credentials for political gain in the face of rising Shi'ite opposition, particularly from the Sadrist Movement of radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. More than 50 Sunni protesters were killed, dozens wounded and around 400 arrested in the al-Hawijah raid. Predictably this has compounded Sunni anger. In Fallujah, some 1000 Sunnis took to the streets after calls of 'War' were broadcast from mosques. In Ramadi, the capital of Sunni Anbar Province, Sunnis rioted, attacking Iraqi military vehicles and personnel. The regime responded by resorting to extreme military violence, including the use of attack helicopters. By Friday 26 April at least 215 people (mostly Sunni civilians) were dead, with hundreds more wounded. Al-Maliki claims the protests are part of a foreign-backed conspiracy. [Maliki, an ally of Iran, has been letting Iran run flights into Syria via Iraqi airspace -- about which the US has protested.]

Enraged by the massacre, Sunni tribes across central Iraq are joining forces and arming to fight the Shi'ite-dominated government. These include the 'Awakening' (Al-Sahwa) militias, whose leaders in Anbar Province have announced the formation of the 'Army of Pride and Dignity'. Its task is to protect the Sunni province from the US-backed, Shi'ite-dominated, Iran-allied government. If Maliki cannot pacify the Sunnis, their anger could pave the way for an alliance between former enemies: US-backed 'Awakening' and a revived al-Qaeda. On Monday 29 April car bombs exploded in four Shi'ite districts south of Baghdad, killing more than 30 people.

Meanwhile, it appears the Kurds are exploiting the chaos to make a move on the oil-fields of Kirkuk. Erbil, capital of the Kurdish province, has deployed 'peshmerger' Kurdish troops to Kirkuk, claiming they are simply filling a security vacuum. However, Baghdad sees this move as a 'dangerous development' in violation of agreements.

This RLPB ministry has long maintained that the real war for Iraq would not begin until after US troop departed and that 'the mother of all battles' would be fought over control of Kirkuk. The coming war will pit Sunnis vs Shi'ites; Kurds vs Turks vs Arabs; federalists vs centralists; nationalists vs international jihadis; anti-government vs pro-government forces and alliances; Iran vs Saudi Arabia; international jihadis vs everyone else; and probably more. (This is just as in Syria, but possibly worse!) Underneath it all, the region's indigenous, long-suffering, besieged, remnant Christians will be victims of every contest, targeted by all forces.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT ---

* our holy, just and sovereign God will be powerfully at work amidst the chaos, advancing his purpose and glory.
 
* the Lord of Hosts will bring down all that is false and destroy all repressive systems so that God alone will be exalted and healing faith might bloom in freedom. (Isaiah 2:10-21)

* our Lord Jesus Christ will comfort, encourage and sustain his faithful ones, covering them with his hand, gathering them in his arms, fighting for them, supplying their needs and fuelling their faith.

'. . . that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.' (From Isaiah 61:3 ESV.)

* God will awaken the Church throughout the world to the reality of the looming genocide of some of the world's most ancient Christian communities, from Antioch to Nineveh -- our spiritual heritage.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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DANGER AS SECTARIAN WAR LOOMS IN IRAQ


On Tuesday 23 April at 5 am Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi security forces raided a Sunni protest camp in the northern city of al-Hawijah, Kirkuk Province. More than 50 protesters were killed, dozens were wounded and hundreds arrested. Sunnis, who have been protesting persecution under the Shi'ite-dominated Maliki government, were outraged. As riots erupted, government violence escalated and by Friday 26 April at least 215 people (mostly Sunni civilians) had been massacred. Sunnis are now uniting and arming to fight the government. Al-Qaeda, now revived in Syria, will doubtless seek a comeback in Iraq. Meanwhile, Kurdish forces have moved into oil-rich Kirkuk in violation of agreements with Baghdad. An ethnic-political-sectarian war looms, in which Iraq's long-suffering, besieged, remnant Christians will be exceedingly vulnerable. Please pray for them, and for the region.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)