Death of Christian leader in Iraq, ominous sign for believers

By March 14, 2008

Iraq (MNN) — Christians in Iraq says there's another ominous sign that there's no place for them in Iraq. The body of the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was discovered yesterday. He had been kidnapped by gunmen in Mosul in northern Iraq late last month. While violence has been on the decline in Iraq, Christians are facing increasing amounts of oppression.

The Executive Director of the World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission, Johan Candalin, says this case sends a loud signal to the Christian community. "An archbishop is more than one ordinary clergyman. He is a symbol of the whole church. And when he is killed in this brutal way, it is a very clear signal to all Christians that this is what could happen to any one of you."

Hundreds of thousands of Christians have left Iraq. Many are refugees in Turkey and other nearby countries. Candalin says WEA is helping Christian refugees in Turkey. He says, "The Christians are the main target group. The message I get from 99 out of 100 Christians coming out of Iraq is they have no future, and they are looking for a future either in Europe, Australia, New Zealand or North America."

Candalin explains why they feel this way. "Almost all of the families I meet in Istanbul, Turkey have at least one person in their family who either has been killed or kidnapped, and that's why they say there is no future."

While many of the refugees are finding help in these nations, Candalin says it's an ongoing problem in Turkey. "There are new families coming every day. Last week, I think about 50 families arrived in Istanbul, leaving Iraq behind."

Many are concerned that the violence is forcing out the remnant church and the Christian witness is leaving the country.

WEA is helping these refugees with food, water, clothing, medicines and other essentials. Candalin is asking you to pray for the refugees. He's also asking for donations to help support their work. And, he's asking you to get involved. "If there are Iraqi refugees in your hometown, welcome them. Invite them to your home. Show hospitality. Invite them to your church."

Pray that God would provide opportunities for many of these Iraqis to share their faith despite their circumstances.

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