Iraq (MNN) — Christians used to be a vital force in the
Middle East, but the rise of radical Islam and violence in recent days has
driven many away. In 2008, churches were
attacked or damaged by bombs, Christians received death threats, and several
Christians were murdered, abused and/or kidnapped.
Their plight has not escaped notice. The Pope took time
during his visit this week to encourage them and shed light on the gravity of
the situation. In a Saturday service in
Jordan, he said: "I urge diplomats and the international community they
represent, together with local political and religious leaders, to do
everything possible to ensure the ancient Christian
community of that noble land its fundamental right to peaceful coexistence with their fellow
The words come following yet another attack on Christians. According to Compass Direct, gunmen in Iraq
shot five Chaldean Christians in their Kirkuk homes on April 26 in two separate
attacks, killing three and injuring two.
Tom Doyle with
E3 Partners calls the papal address timely. "We talked to our leader in Iraq, and he
said there's about ten major terrorist groups. It's their job to persecute
Christians and go after them."
Christians make up less than four percent of Iraq's people. Doyle says that in spite of the thousands who
have fled to Syria and Turkey, there is still a corps of dedicated and godly
leaders to lead the remnant church. "We do know of significant numbers of Christians that are staying
and have a fruitful ministry, and God is working in their midst."
E3 Partners continues to work in the region with what is
fast becoming an underground church. He urges
prayer for the believers who remain because "it is a daily battle that
they are in. They're living their faith one day at a time, using each day to
bring glory to Christ, to share the Gospel, to disciple new believers and to
make an impact. Each day for them is tenuous."