Iraq (MNN) — Militant forces backed by Iran are gaining power in Iraq. The Los Angeles Times noted recently, “the militias have transformed themselves into a potent government institution, political entity and economic player.”
According to Miles Windsor of Middle East Concern, believers are on edge. “It’s a very concerning time, it’s a very stressful time,” he says.
“They were hoping to have a degree of security in the wake of ISIS, but more sectarian tensions are being whipped up again.”
Shia militants: puppets of Iran?
At the end of 2018, Shia militants made a show of force in two Christian communities in the Nineveh Plain. As described here by Middle East Concern, Christians received no help from authorities following two shooting incidents in the villages of Bartella and Qaraqosh.
No lives were lost on these occasions; militants fired their guns in the air to intimidate community members.
“They’re seeking to assert themselves and establish themselves in all these places that have a very clear Christian identity,” explains Windsor.
The Shi’ite fighters operate with relative freedom because they’re helping Iraq get rid of the Islamic State. While ridding Iraq of Christians is an additional priority, “it’s been suggested there’s also an underlying strategy from Iran, which is a key sponsor of this particular militia,” Windsor notes.
“They are seeking to develop what’s known as a ‘Shia crescent’ – a block of land between Lebanon in the west and Iran in the east – to develop a Shia passageway across there.”
Believers keep asking police for help and protection, but each time they’re ignored.
“It’s hard to know exactly why authorities aren’t…responding to the church’s request for protection,” Windsor admits. Fear and concern for the region’s stability are likely causes.
However, he adds, “the reality is that Iraqi army and police should be stepping in and providing security for the entirety of the population” – Christians included.
How you can help
Iraqi Christians want to stay in their homeland. Please pray for them. Local authorities may ignore their pleas, but we serve a God who vows never to leave their side.
Pray believers can remain in Iraq and continue to proclaim Christ’s message of truth and hope.
“The most powerful influencer we can turn to is our Lord. We can cry out to Him on behalf of these Christian communities.”
Middle East Concern supports people in the Middle East and North Africa who are discriminated against or persecuted for being or becoming Christians. Learn more and support their efforts here.
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