Iraq (MNN) — Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has issued an all-out effort to secure the release of Chaldean Catholic archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was kidnapped last Friday. The Mosul abduction has sent shockwaves throughout the Christian community, says Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller.
Moeller just returned from the region. "Christians there, many of them, told me about stories of being forced out of their homes [and] told by Al-Quade in Iraq that they would need to flee the city or face their children being kidnapped. But this particularly–because it's a leading figure in the Christian community–has sent shockwaves throughout the Christian community."
Moeller says this isn't good news for the already-shrinking Christian population in Iraq. "It just adds more fuel to people wanting to flee. And in fleeing, they'll reduce the Christian witness in that society."
While persecution against Christians generally sees the church grow, it's kind of mixed for the church in Iraq, says Moeller. "The historic Christian church in Iraq has decreased from roughly one-million around the time of the first Gulf War, to less than half a million. However, thousands of Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus Christ in Iraq today, and that is a reality throughout the North and even in the South."
Moeller says there's evidence of that today. "There is actually a Muslim background believer church in Northern Iraq, in Kurdistan. And even a decade ago, that would have been a complete oxymoron to say 'a Kurdish Christian.' But today, there are thousands of Kurdish Christians/ Muslim background believers."
Open Doors is doing all they can to help the indigenous church. "Our role as Open Doors is to come alongside the church where they are persecuted and to strengthen them so that they can remain there and that they can remain a vital Gospel witness for the sake of the souls of the Iraqi people."
Christians in the West can help persecuted believers through prayer and support. Moeller says, "Hundreds of thousands of Christians in Northern Iraq who've fled homes and livelihoods are living on basic subsistence. So Open Doors is standing in that gap with food, clothing, medicine, and even shelter for many thousands of those Christians."