Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors USA adds one more to the list.
“Iraq is not getting much attention, but we need to keep the spotlight on there,” he states.
A series of bombings in the capital city of Baghdad yesterday killed at least 70 people and wounded far more. It’s the latest in a wave of turmoil that’s engulfed the nation since 2013 started.
Over 4,000 civilians have been killed and 10,000 wounded since the year began, the BBC states in a recent article. July saw the greatest number of Iraqi causalities since 2008.
“The total number of Iraqis killed during July was 1,057, and 2,326 wounded in acts of terrorism,” Dykstra states. “That is a new record, and not, obviously, good news for the people of Iraq and not good news for Christians who’ve lived in Iraq.”
Rising sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims is to blame. Sunni militants say they’re being ostracized by Iraq’s Shi’ite government, which is holding the largest anti-insurgent campaign since 2011.
Conflict in Syria only serves to fan the flames.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Iraq’s al-Qaeda branch, has joined rebels in the quest to overthrow Syrian President Assad. In turn, Assad is backed by Hezbollah, one of the region’s largest terror organizations, and Iran, both of which are affiliated with Shi’ite Islam.
According to Dykstra, Iraqi Christians are caught between a rock and a hard place.
“That seems to be almost ‘par for the course’ in the Middle East nowadays,” he says, explaining Christians are “not only victims of the random violence, but they’re also specifically targeted by Muslim extremists.
“You have the Sunnis and Shi’ites…and they have their backers, but the Christians have nobody.”
Open Doors is combatting the loneliness and anxiety experienced by many Iraqi Christians. Through micro-loans, translation projects, and the distribution of Christian literature and Scripture, they’re encouraging and supporting the Persecuted Church in this volatile nation.
“The Christians in Iraq are very discouraged, and obviously need our support and need our prayers,” Dykstra states.
One of the biggest needs among Iraqi believers, he adds, is trauma counseling.
“There’s a whole generation of kids, who’re now young adults, who’ve been brought up in [these] terrible wars and persecution,” says Dykstra.
“There’s only about 330,000 Christians left in Iraq,” Dykstra says. “There used to be, 10 years ago, over a million Christians.
“We really need to put emphasis on reaching out to them, especially in prayer.”
Pray for Open Doors trauma counselors working with children and families affected by persecution. Pray encouragement and healing for war-weary Christians in Iraq.
Pray “that they get the healing they need, and I’m talking about healing not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually,” requests Dykstra.