Iraq (MNN) — A car bomb shattered hopes for peace during Ramadan. It exploded outside a church in central
Kirkuk, Iraq on August 1. Officials say
23 were wounded in that attack. The
blast damaged the church as well as neighboring structures, police noted.
Since 2003, attacks by insurgents and religious extremists against
Christians have driven more than half of Christians out of the country, leaving a
remnant church, says Carl Moeller, president and CEO of Open Doors USA.
More violence is likely. Moeller
explains, "When a church is bombed like this in Iraq, or anywhere else, we have to
look at those precipitating opportunities. Here, on the very first day of
Ramadan, to have a church bombed in a country that is known for violence
against Christians, I think there's an opportunity to link those two things
Ramadan is the 30-day annual Islamic fast which began
August 1. From dawn till dusk, Muslims seek
to shed their sins through acts of restraint as they believe this is a time of
purification accomplished through good deeds and self-control.
There are concerns that the fervor stirred may expose Christians to an increased risk of persecution in Muslim-majority countries. "The fact is:
the extremists in that country are still bent on extermination of the church," Moeller says. "I think the animosity is always there, the
daily pressure is always there," he addds," but during Ramadan in particular, we see a
heightened intensity of those that are extremists against Christians."
Describing Monday's attack as normal sectarian
violence versus a connection to Ramadan specifically is hard to differentiate because
the ideology is the same. "Predisposition of violence in a country
like Iraq means that the expression of
that hostility against Christians is going to take the form of church bombings, or kidnappings or killings of
According to Open Doors, some
governments in Islamic countries forcibly enforce observance of Ramadan, and
extremist groups increase their vigilante activities against both non-abiding
Muslims and non-Muslims, tending to become more intolerant toward them. But it's not all bad, says Moeller. "During Ramadan when Muslims are praying and intensely seeking God during
this spiritual month for them, we can pray that the Spirit of God penetrates
the lives of Muslims."
At the same time, the remnant church sees this time as an excellent opportunity to
share the hope of Jesus. "The church itself, in these situations, sometimes
actually grows stronger. That doesn't mean it grows larger, necessarily, but it
does grow stronger, that those who are strengthened by the Holy Spirit are
able to stand with greater conviction."
Pray for protection for Christians
during this time of upheaval and danger. Pray for wisdom as they respond to the fear surrounding
them. "They are the ones who end up
witnessing to neighbors who look at their situation and ask, ‘Why?' They get a
chance to testify to the reality of Jesus Christ in their life."