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IRAQ: CHRISTIANS FACING INCREASED RISK
by Elizabeth Kendal
|click here for video and transcripts.|
testimony of Reine Hanna,
Assyrian Policy Institute.
As ISIS was driven from the Nineveh Plains - the Assyrian heartland for millennia - the security vacuum was filled by armed Kurds (Sunni Muslims) and Shabaks (Shi'ite Muslims, backed by Baghdad and Tehran) who rapidly colonised what is now known as the 'disputed territories'. Today, Baghdeda/Qaraqosh - the largest Christian town in the Nineveh Plains - is completely surrounded by Iran-backed Shi'ite militias. Bartella, the second-largest town - previously 95 percent Christian - is now majority Shabak. Furthermore, while Shabaks control the local government, Shabak militias control 'security' and operate checkpoints. Christians are abused as second-class citizens while their businesses face extortion, boycotts and criminality committed with impunity.
|Imam Khomeini school, Bartella|
|by Elizabeth Kendal|
While this looks inevitable, there are, however, two unknowns. (1) It is unknown how the COVID-19 pandemic will influence events: it could increase the likelihood of war (as failing tyrants employ conflict as distraction) or it could induce restraint. (2) It is also unknown how God might yet intervene, in answer to the prayers of many, to redeem all suffering and 'turn back the battle at the gate' (from Isaiah 28:5-6).
PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL
* intervene in the fragile, volatile and threatened nation of Iraq to bless, protect, sustain and preserve his precious Church; may all Christians living in Iraq - be they indigenous Assyrians or Muslim converts - draw ever closer to the Lord; may they trust him with their future and grow in grace and faith every day.
* thwart every evil plot to steal Assyrian land and even eliminate the Assyrian presence; may such an evil plan never come to pass and may the Lord intervene, in answer to prayer, to 'turn back the battle at the gate' (from Isaiah 28:5-6)
* redeem these days of serious hardship, political upheaval, geopolitical tensions, military threat and deep uncertainty to draw many hearts towards peace, and to prepare many hearts to receive the Gospel. 'For nothing will be impossible with God' (angel to Mary, Luke 1:37 ESV).
* reveal the plight of the four aid workers abducted in Baghdad on 20 January; no ransom demands have been made, and the whereabouts of the three French nationals and one Iraqi, who were serving with the French Christian charity SOS Chretiens d'Orient (SOS Christians of the Middle East), remain unknown to all but the Lord.
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
CHRISTIANS FACING INCREASED RISK IN IRAQ
Today, fewer than 200,000 indigenous Christian Assyrians remain in Iraq, their future uncertain. While ISIS was being driven from the Assyrian heartland, Kurds and Shabaks were flooding in, exploiting the security vacuum. Throughout Northern Iraq's Nineveh Plains, Assyrian towns have been colonised and taken over either by Kurds (Sunnis) or by Shabaks (Shi'ites, supported by Baghdad and Tehran). Consequently, historic Assyrian towns are no longer safe for Assyrians. Meanwhile, Iraq is growing increasingly volatile. Late last year, Baghdad was rocked by the largest anti-government protests in Iraq's history. Tensions are soaring, especially now it also appears that Iraq could become the battleground for a US-Iran proxy war. Should that eventuate, the Kurds and Shabaks would doubtless move to complete the genocide of the Assyrian people under the cover of chaos. Please pray.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).