U.S. declares war in Iraq at an end

By December 16, 2011

Iraq (MNN) — U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta formally declared
an end to nine years of a war in Iraq on Thursday at a ceremony in Baghdad.

The cost: 4,500
American dead, 32,000 wounded and more than $800 billion. However, Mr Panetta said that "the
mission had succeeded in "making that country sovereign and independent and able
to govern and secure itself."

According to
government reports, the pullout of U.S. troops began in 2009, and combat
operations stopped a year later. U.S.
troops pulled out of the cities in 2009 and halted combat operations a year
later. Training Iraqi personnel has been
on schedule, so it's assumed that the withdrawal will have little immediate
impact on the lives of most Iraqis.

However, that
might not be true for one of the minority groups in Iraq: the Christians. Spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs USA Todd Nettleton explains, "The
potential is there for it to affect believers, because believers have had a
sense that American presence provided at least a little bit of protection, a little
bit of oversight for them."  

However, Nettleton notes
that "the reality is that there have been attacks on believers
while the Americans have been there. There will be attacks on believers, now
that they're gone. It is simply a continuation of the persecution that Christians
in Iraq face on a day-to-day basis."

About 334,000 Christians remain in Iraq, less than half of the
number there in 1991. The violence has caused hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people–both Muslim and Christian–to leave the country, and many more are displaced
inside Iraq, particularly in Kurdistan.

There is one question Iraq's believers want answered. "Now that the Americans are leaving, now
that the Iraqi government is fully in charge and fully in place, what will be
done about religious freedom? Will there be protections for Christians to meet
together?"

A wait-and-see
approach is the only option. In the
meantime, the Gospel is going forward. "The Voice of
the Martyrs is directly involved in ministries that equip the church, particularly
equipping Christians who are doing evangelism. We provide Bibles, we provide other
Gospel materials. We are also providing other material needs to Christians,
especially those who have been displaced by the violence."

Pray for protection for the Christians who remain. Nettleton says their teams are praying for government
leaders who will stand for religious freedom.
"We can pray about the evangelism efforts that are going on. We can
pray for those who are spreading the Gospel that God will protect them, that seeds will be planted, and that lives will be changed by the love of
Christ." 

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