Trying to find the peace of Christmas in Iraq

By December 22, 2010

Iraq (MNN) — Al-Qaeda threats
against Christians have led to Christmas gatherings being canceled in parts of
northern Iraq.

There are concerns that the
threats will take shape in the form of deadly attacks similar to those on
October 31 in a Baghdad cathedral. 

In that attack, 44 Christians, two
priests, and seven security force personnel died. The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) claimed
responsibility and declared Christians everywhere "legitimate

Over the last several weeks, at least 70 to 80 Christians have been killed
by Muslim extremists in Iraq, mostly in Baghdad and in the northern Iraqi city
of Mosul.

Doors USA
President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller describes the situation facing
Christians at Christmas as "one of extreme vulnerability and fear. One of our coworkers said, ‘Christmas is
coming, but peace does not exist in Iraq. Pray for us so that we can have a
peaceful Christmas.'"

Religious leaders across various faiths joined together with Open
Doors, a ministry that serves persecuted Christians around the world, to call
attention to the systematic "extermination" of Iraqi Christians. Moeller says, "It's not genocide, it's ‘religiouscide;' that is, a systematic 
extermination of a certain religious group, and that would be Christians in Iraq."

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI said
Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, especially
believers in the Middle East. "It's a
2,000 year history that is being threatened right now, and it's a huge tragedy."

There are only about 600,000
Christians in Iraq now, down from about 1.2 million before the US-led invasion
in 2003. As the violence drives them to
flee their homeland, Moeller raises this concern: "If we let this go on, all
that will be left of Christianity in the Middle East is a Christian museum–the
empty buildings, empty communities, the names on streets that reflect Christian
themes that no longer exist in any real, meaningful way."

What that means is a severe
impact on the spread of the hope of Christ in a time when hope is a rare
commodity. "Jesus gave the witness of His salvation to His church," says Moeller. "As the
church is forcibly removed, there's no one left there to speak the words of

Moeller continues: "Right now, Christians
in Baghdad and Mosul are gripped by terrorism. They are fleeing in droves.
Their families are threatened. Even young children are being killed. Extremists
want to eliminate Christians from Iraq.

If the pattern holds true, there
likely will not be peace in Iraq this Christmas. The only answer is the Prince
of Peace. "We need to pray for them," Moeller says. "But we also need to provide the very things
that they're praying for: clothing, food, shelter, medical attention, training,
and we need to provide trauma counseling for Christians there."

Open Doors, which conducted a
writing and prayer campaign for Iraq, delivered approximately 1750 prayer and
encouragement notes in a 250-page book which was sent to Baghdad. The Open
Doors representative added that worship is continuing in some churches, despite
the violence and threats. Click here if
you want to find out more about how to encourage believers in Iraq.

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