Christians stand strong in Iraq

By December 29, 2008

Iraq
(MNN) — While many Christians are fleeing persecution in Iraq, some have
chosen to stay. Karen Hawkins of Bible
Pathway Ministries
says one church of several hundred people is even reaching
out to others in the community. 

"They are going into the community, and they are being
received well by some of the Muslim leadership," she said. "Because they are
demonstrating the love of Christ, they are sharing what they have with those
who are less fortunate…even though there may be persecution to follow…they are
demonstrating the love of Christ to people who are not being reached, people
who are considered unloved and unlovely." 

Just a couple of weeks ago, the church took in a pastor from
Mosul who was
shot. Since it was too dangerous for the
pastor to stay in Mosul,
he came to stay with the other congregation. 

"He was accosted by a couple of gunmen, and he was shot three
times, one bullet very close to his heart," Hawkins said. "The doctor said it was a miracle he was
alive, but he's not leaving."

Bible Pathway has been in contact with the church, which
runs a school and other programs, for about six years. The Christian enclave in the area is among
the oldest in the world, but now many people are fleeing the country because of
persecution. Others, however, are going
on with life as usual. 

"They're going on with their Christmas programs: they're
giving gifts, they'll have their candlelight services, they'll be praising the
Lord just as we will here in the States, only there may be gunfire and rockets
going off," Hawkins said.

The pastor of the church is not planning to leave anytime
soon, Hawkins said. 

"He has told me numerous times, we are not going to leave. This is where God has us. He has us here for
this time. We are His hands and feet, and we do not intend to leave." 

Although many Christians may not be able to imagine what
life is like under persecution, Hawkins says Iraqi Christians need their
prayers.  

"We really need to be praying for our brothers and sisters
over there, because they are on the front lines, and it's their homeland," she
said. "They want the people to know
about Jesus – Isa, in Arabic – how much He loves them, and they're going to
stay."  

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