Iraq (MNN) — Militants in Iraq
say the fuse against Christians is lit. This statement comes a day after Iraqi forces stormed a church in
Baghdad where gunmen had taken close to 120 hostages.
When it was all over, two suicide
vests filled with ball bearings were detonated. 58
people were dead and 75 wounded. An Open Doors worker
commented: "It appears to be a well-planned and strategic attack aimed at the
Carl Moeller from Open Doors
USA agrees. "We're
finding that it is their intent to literally squeeze out the Christians. Their very words have said, ‘They have no
place in Iraq.'"
Two of the pastors, Father Saad
Abdal Tha'ir and Father Waseem Tabeeh, were killed. A third
priest, Father Raphael Qatin, succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.
Another Open Doors worker from
Baghdad, whose name cannot be disclosed for security reasons, urges prayer for
the Christians, many of whom are distressed: "I am very confused and
shocked; two pastors were my friends."
Police arrested eight
gunmen believed to be affiliated with a militant organization connected to Al Qaeda. This group blamed the Coptic Church in
Egypt, which it accused of detaining two women who converted to Islam.
The church in which the hostages were held — one of six bombed in
August 2004 — was filled for Sunday services. Many lamented that the killings
might force more Christians to leave Iraq, further shrinking an already
Moeller notes, "It's been a repeated and systematic ‘religiouscide',
which is the attempt of Muslim extremists on both sides, Shia and Sunni, to
eliminate the Christian population in Iraq."
The pace of justice is too slow
for many of the Christians in Iraq. The attacks are ramping up, and unrest is
increasing. "The government appears to
be relatively powerless to change, and if conditions continue the way they
are, the Christian population in Iraq will simply cease to exist within a few
Moeller goes on to say that even
though "religiouscide" is taking its toll, the extremists can't counter the hope
of Christ. "Within evangelism taking place in Iraq, the
risks are incredibly high, and yet people are continuing to do it. There are
risks to those that share their faith, and of course, there are risks to those
Open Doors continues to reach out
to encourage the beleaguered church in Iraq with whatever support they can provide. Moeller cites what Christ said in Matthew
16:18, "On this rock I will build My church, and
the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
Moeller continues, "I'm believing that God is going
to do a miracle and preserve the Christian population in Iraq. We're trusting and standing shoulder to shoulder with the Christians that are suffering this way. We
believe that the continuing advance of the Gospel will not be stopped."
Iraq ranks 18th on the
World Watch list of countries known for their persecution of Christians. Pray
for boldness and for protection for Christians during this time of upheaval and
danger. Pray for ministry opportunities
for churches and Christian relief organizations working in Iraq. Pray for healing of those who were traumatized
in this attack. Click here to help.