Iraq (MNN) — Iraqi Christians have faced rising violence over the past
several years, but the attacks have escalated significantly over the last
several weeks. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says the terrorists aim to clear the country of Christians.
"It seems very clear that
radical Islamic elements — whether they're tied to al-Qaeda or whether they're
tied to some other radical Islamic group — are trying to send a very clear
message to Christians in Iraq," Nettleton says. The terrorists are sending the following message: "You are not safe. You should either become Muslim, or you
should leave the country."
Iraqi politicians are taking the situation more seriously and beginning
to discuss the need to keep Christians safe. One lawmaker has accused countries offering asylum for Christians of
meddling in Iraqi affairs and playing into the hands of terrorists.
Nettleton says it's only natural and logical for families to seek
safety elsewhere when threatened by extensive violence, and for other countries
to offer that to them. "I don't necessarily think that another
country that opens its arms to Christians who are at risk for their lives is
meddling in Iraqi affairs. I think that's a vast overstatement by this official,"
However, Nettleton does believe Christians should pray for the Iraqi
government to protect all of its citizens, including the Christians.
"There are some who are saying, 'Wait a minute! The government has an
obligation to its Christian citizens to provide some measure of…safety for
them,'" he says. "We need to pray that
those calls will find sympathetic ears within the government…and we need to
pray for a really specific and good plan to be put into place that will
provide some protection for the Christian believers in Iraq."
During the Christmas season, large gatherings of Christians will become targets for the terrorists. VOM's contacts in Iraq are very concerned about the safety of every
Christian and every gathering. As the
Christians strive to be faithful to God in their decisions, in this context
they need prayer for boldness in evangelism, Nettleton says.
"I think there are some Iraqi Christians who are very bold in their
faith and say, 'You know what? If the risks are great, then how much more
important is it for us to be sharing our faith? We need to share today because we're not
guaranteed tomorrow.' There will be other
Christians who say, 'We really need to lay low right now because it's very
"I think we can pray for both of those groups. We can pray for those who are bold; we can
pray for those who are frightened. Pray also for encouragement, for strength, and for protection for them."