Iraq (MNN) — Violence is on the rise with elections coming up on April 30, and Iraqi Christians are facing the potential of yet another exodus.
“When they’ve had people in their family killed or maimed, they [Iraqi Christians] feel they have no other option but to leave,” explains Steve VanValkenburg, Middle East Area Director of Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions.
“What’s ironic is some have gone to Syria, and now they’re being driven back into Iraq because Iraq is actually a safer place than Syria.”
A polling station in northern Iraq was attacked earlier this week, killing 10 guards and wounding a dozen. It followed closely on the heels of several Easter Weekend suicide bombings that killed at least 33 people and wounded scores more across the nation.
Islamic militants are trying to derail Iraq’s parliamentary elections, which will be the first vote to take place since U.S. forces left the country in 2011. If they can make it to the polls, Iraqi voters will have to choose from among 9,000 candidates, according to the Associated Press.
Violence is no foreign concept to Iraqis; some 2.7 million people have been forced out of their homes by unrest over the past decade. Around half left the country entirely, while others stayed in Iraq but are living in temporary shelters.
Iraqi Christians have suffered a significantly devastating blow. Over the past 11 years, their population has dropped from 1.5 million to an estimated 300,000.
For Iraqi refugees who fled to Syria but were forced to return again–this time with over 200,000 Syrian refugees, the future is growing increasingly uncertain. Will you pray for them?
“Really, it’s a hopeless situation, and somehow they need hope,” notes VanValkenburg. “The only hope they’re ever going to find will be in Christ.”
Christian Aid supports an Iraqi ministry that’s bringing the Gospel to vulnerable populations. Since the civil war began in Syria, Gospel workers have been distributing food, clothing, heaters, and other emergency aid to refugee families. Through the steadfast demonstration of God’s love in practical ways by this Christian Aid-supported partner, hundreds of people have received Christ as their Savior.
“It’s a great opportunity, and there’s no reason why hundreds of thousands of New Testaments should not be passed out among the refugees,” notes VanValkenburg.
“It’s an opportunity for the Gospel to reach out to people that have no hope.”
Supplying the ministry with resources allows them to demonstrate God’s love in tangible ways. But, prayer support is vital, too.
“Some of the unsung heroes in all of this are the indigenous missionaries working among the Syrian refugees,” says VanValkenburg. “Those workers, those Christian workers, really need our prayers. They need to be encouraged in Christ; they need God’s strength.
“One of the greatest things we can do is pray for those people.”
Pray also for the Syrian refugees in Iraq and displaced Iraqis. Ask the Lord to give them a new sense of hope, and pray that Muslims will come to know Christ as the true Savior.