(MNN) — The 200 victims of Iraq's
second-deadliest bomb attack were members of a small Kurdish sect, the Yazidis,
who have been the target of Muslim extremists who consider them infidels.
That, along with the continued persecution of Christians,
point to a religious "cleansing" by Islamic militants. Open Doors' Paul Estabrooks says, "They (Christians)
have been targeted with death threats and told that they have three options:
convert, leave or be killed. They are leaving in significant numbers. Every day an estimated 3,000
refugees flee up to northern Iraq
The best estimates are that 40% of the Internally
Displaced Persons (IDPs) are Christians, but that information is difficult to
verify. They are a good indication, though, of the present situation of the
church in Iraq.
Churches are increasingly targets of religious violence.
Extremists broke into Mar Yacoub of Nisibin Church in the Dora neighborhood in
June. According to eyewitnesses, armed militants looted the church, removed the
steeple cross, abducted two of its guards, and took them to an unknown
destination. Dora, once traditionally a Christian area, has now been "religiously cleansed" of most Assyrian
Doors reports that an Islamic group visited all the families in one Christian
quarter of Mosul.
They asked for $5,000 (or $2,000 if the family was deemed poor), and it is
estimated that now approximately three-quarters of the city has been threatened
in some way. What is happening in their city is very similar to the events
in the Dora area where religious cleansing is taking place.
man told Open Doors that his house had been bombed because he refused to pay
$300,000. Another demand for $6,000 was made after the bombing, and
because this could not be paid, the home of the owner's sister was also
destroyed within two hours.
result of the terrorism, many believers flee to Kurdistan,
only to find equally dismal and hard conditions there. Some new houses have been built for IDPs, but
they are poorly constructed. The houses are very cold in winter and very hot in
the summer. IDPs often have nothing to furnish their new homes.
have a great need for medical help but they have no money, not even for
transportation to visit a doctor, let alone to purchase any medicines needed.
Estabrooks says the future of the church in Iraq is
uncertain. However, "We've started a relief project for these kind of
people, realizing that this has become a need especially for our brothers and
sisters that have run. We're establishing different safe houses and other
places for them to stay and attempting to help them if they indeed decide that
they want to immigrate."
Estabrooks urges prayer for the believers carrying on.
"Evangelism is basically being done on a one-on-one basis, but it's
extremely difficult under those circumstances." Pray that the northern
province of Kurdistan will stay
stable, in spite of many factors that can destabilize the region. Pray for Open Doors co-workers in this
country who try to help. Click here if
you can help.