Middle East (CAM/MNN) — An ethnoreligious community in Iraq was once inaccessible to native Iraqi missionaries, as members lived reclusively in distant mountains near the border with Turkey. Since Islamic State (ISIS) atrocities drove them from their mountain strongholds last year, however, Yazidis now account for most of the people who have turned to Christ through a local ministry.
They had beliefs and rituals rooted in Zoroastrianism, mixed with elements of Christianity and Islam. And then came ISIS.
Last August, around 500 Yazidis were massacred by ISIS. Hundreds more were forced from their homes and into refugee camps.
Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, reported local church ministries have been reaching out to the refugees, giving support, Bibles, and sharing the Gospel.
While ISIS terror tactics have contributed to many Muslims in Iraq and Syria coming to Christ, in the past six months about 70% of those displaced to the northern Iraqi cities of Erbil and Dohuk who have embraced Christ through one ministry’s outreach are Yazidis, a native Iraqi ministry director said.
About 80 families have put their trust in Christ over the past six months, and each of these families had 7-10 people in them.
Those who have come to know Christ get connected with tent churches, while some who live close enough to an established church might walk to its building for worship.
Displaced Muslims, in the meantime, have continued to be open to the message of Christ–including, in one case, an apparent ISIS sympathizer or associate. A team from the ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission was distributing aid and strayed into an ISIS area. They realized their error when a man began asking them what they were doing there.
“He was very extremist, you could see by his beard,” the director said. “We said we were giving some help to these people. He said, ‘Yes, but I see your car has Bibles in it and Christian materials.’ We said, ‘Yeah, we work with a church and we give these away. But we will leave now if you want.’ He said, ‘Why do you give all these people Bibles, and you don’t give one to me?’ We were surprised that this guy was extremist and he asked us for the Bible. We gave him a Bible, and we started to tell him stories about the Lord, and then immediately we left the area.”
Muslims in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region who have refused to swear loyalty to ISIS, or were suspected as moderates or informants of the Iraqi Security Forces, have suffered atrocities and have seen the religious basis for the injustice.
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