Iraq (MNN) – Last week, Iran’s Parliament branded all U.S. military forces ‘terrorists’. Heading into the weekend, U.S. intelligence officials blamed Iran for accidentally firing on a Ukrainian jet, causing it to crash and killing all aboard.
The accident triggered an emphatic denial and more barbs traded between the two countries, further muddying the waters on who might be backing down from war. Tuesday’s retaliatory missile attack on Iraqi military bases hosting American troops did nothing but increase tensions, as noted by the President in his address following the assault.
On Thursday, the House approved a war powers resolution, restricting the President from further action on Iran. Meanwhile, the military remained on high alert after discovering Iran was moving military equipment. The U.S. continues to watch for potential attacks specifically against U.S. locations in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates.
A plea for calm from Iraq
In Iraq, church leaders are pleading for cooler heads. On Wednesday, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil said the situation threatens the already fragile Christian community in the Nineveh Plains. There’s also some concern that Iraq could become the stage for the clash between the two countries. It’s a proxy conflict that has already exacted a terrible price on Christians in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, explains that “We think of America as a nation where some of the people are Christians, some of the people are not Christians, some of the people are Muslim, [and] some of them are Hindus, but they’re all Americans.”
However, the picture on the street throughout the Middle East is, “‘America is a Christian nation. All Americans are Christians.'” If a Muslim extremist wants to get revenge on America, it’s easy to target a church if unable to find an American. It’s revenge, by proxy. “That is why sometimes we will see retaliation attacks aimed at America, but what gets attacked (are) local Christians, because again, America is seen as a Christian nation. You want to strike back at (America), ‘let’s attack the local Christians in our area.‘”
Asking the right questions
Persecution watchdog groups such as Open Doors USA and Voice of the Martyrs USA echo their concerns. Both ministries support the Church under fire. They’ve also seen this scenario play out before, so they’re urging Christians in North America to speak up and ask some critical questions of our elected officials.
“How is this going to affect Christians in those countries? How is this going to make their life better or worse on the ground as followers of Christ? We want them to be aware of them; want them to be sensitive to the impact that their decisions are (having) on our Christian brothers and sisters.”
At the same time, “Most of us can’t get on a plane and go to Iraq or go to Iran. But we can pray, and we can impact what happens in those nations through our prayers.” He suggests using and sharing these stories to inform our response as we pray through the news.
Pray the news
Here are a few specific things about which to pray:
- Pray for the Gospel message to break through hearts hardened by longstanding divisions and intense rivalries.
- Pray for believers to stand firm in their faith despite persecution and terror.
- Pray that the power and love of Christ and His people overcomes evil and terror.
Headline screen capture courtesy Prayercast.