Iraq/Iran (MNN) — Ongoing tensions escalated recently between the U.S. and Iran following tit-for-tat attacks on Iraqi soil. See a timeline of tensions here.
On Friday, several world leaders warned of dire consequences if the situation escalates further. Following Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s death, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted, “The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime.” The U.S. urged all citizens to immediately depart Iraq and sent thousands of additional troops to the region.
The Iraq attacks also put believers in the cross-hairs.
Ali* with Global Catalytic Ministries tells MNN, “Iran, and many Middle Eastern countries look at Christianity as a Western influence, and especially as a U.S. influence. So, whenever they want to… make a statement to Western culture, they always arrest Christians or do worse things… beat them, torture them, kill them.”
What happens next?
The situation is continually unfolding, and it’s hard to predict what will happen in the days to come. However, it could be further exploited by terrorist groups like Hezbollah or the Islamic State. “Now they have a mutual enemy, which is America, and they can… combine forces,” Ali explains.
“In this situation, they will put aside their differences and their hatred to attack who they hate the most together, which is America.”
Most leaders in the region will probably follow Iran’s lead, Ali continues. “Iran has huge influence in these countries,” he says. “Iraq, Bahrain, most of these countries – Kuwait, Afghanistan – were all part of the Persian Empire before World War I. After World War I, it became known as Iran.”
Though it may seem counterintuitive, tensions actually support ministry. “We’re seeing the biggest revival in the Middle East since the Islamic conquest,” Ali says.
“When there’s chaos, the Gospel flourishes.”
Furthermore, Ali says many Iranians viewed Soleimani as a national hero. His death has sparked deeper conversations. “People are thinking about the afterlife… they’re wondering where he is,” Ali explains.
“This is actually the best time to talk about Jesus and the afterlife.”
How to help
Now that you know, how will you respond? Ali describes a few ways to help.
“We need to have people in the West and North America pray that we can have strategies, tactics, and the boldness to spread the Gospel during this chaos that we’re seeing in Iran, Iraq, and the rest of the Middle East,” he begins.
“We need people to pray and really get involved; support ministries that are working in the Middle East.”
*— Name changed for security purposes.
Header image is a representative photo courtesy Nadir Hashmi via Flickr.