Displaying items by tag: Iraq
A fire at a Christian wedding celebration in Iraq's Nineveh province, near \Mosul, has resulted in over 100 deaths and at least 150 injuries. The blaze reportedly started after fireworks were lit during the celebration. Witnesses reported that the bride and groom survived, contrary to initial reports. The fire broke out in a large events hall, with up to 900 people in attendance. The building, made of highly flammable construction materials, quickly collapsed. Preliminary findings suggest that the hall's exterior was decorated with illegal, highly flammable cladding. Ambulances and medical crews were dispatched to the site, and efforts are being made to provide relief to those affected. The number of Christians in Iraq has significantly decreased in recent years, with the current estimate at 150,000 compared to 1.5 million in 2003.
Swedish police approved of burning a Bible outside Stockholm’s Israeli embassy. The decision follows similar Quran burnings which sparked outrage in the Islamic world. The demonstration was scheduled for Shabbat, when Israel's embassy is closed. A recent Swedish poll found most citizens support banning public burning of religious texts. Israel’s chief rabbi asked King Gustaf to utilise his influence so that the Bible burning does not take place, sending the message that Sweden stands against religious intolerance. Meanwhile on 20 July another Quran was desecrated in Sweden; the Iraqi government informed the Swedish government through diplomatic channels that any recurrence of burning of the Holy Quran on Swedish soil would necessitate severing diplomatic relations. See also world article 6, and
On 20 July Iraq expelled the Swedish ambassador only hours after protesters angered by the burning of the Quran in Sweden stormed the Swedish embassy in central Baghdad, scaling the walls of the compound and setting it on fire. Iraq’s prime minister also recalled his country’s chargé d’affaires in Sweden and suspended the working permit of Swedish telecom company Ericsson on Iraqi soil. The burning of the embassy was called by supporters of the influential Iraqi Shia religious and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr, to protest against the second planned burning of a Quran in front of the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm that day. However, although protesters in Sweden kicked and partially damaged the Quran, they did not burn it as promised. In Baghdad, all the Swedish embassy staff are safe. Sweden’s foreign ministry condemned the attack and highlighted the need for Iraqi authorities to protect diplomatic missions. See also Europe article 2, ‘Sweden: religious intolerance’.
On 12th January the Commission on International Religious Freedom released its annual report, detailing key findings for religious persecution issues in Iraq. Iraqi religious minorities have been fighting for normalcy since the ISIS invasion a decade ago. Despite their efforts, tens of thousands of Christians are still displaced and unable to return to their homes as ISIS is still carrying out attacks periodically, causing fear among citizens about returning to their hometowns formally controlled by ISIS. Also, the Popular Mobilization Forces often block roadways making it increasingly difficult and dangerous to return to the Nineveh plains. Also continued airstrikes in northern Iraq by the Turkish military are disproportionately affecting religious minorities, making it unsafe to return to their communities. Turkey has made little effort to protect civilians during these airstrikes, despite calls from the communities for such consideration. Pray for provision for all the families that have been displaced.
Governments in both Iraq and Lebanon struggle to function and pass legislation. Political parties tied to ethnic and religious groups vie for control. Iran-backed militias hold more power than the military. There are many parallels between Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq because the nation-state borders were drawn around them by colonial nations around a hundred years ago. Ethnic groups thrown together by these borders often find it difficult to make their own voices heard and cooperate. It is an ongoing process that is only successful if there has been a dictator or authoritarian government. There is government corruption. Young Iraqis are dissatisfied and are opening their eyes to opportunities for truth. South Iraq is seeing a time of harvest among the Shia community. Even though they face persecution by larger religious groups, they are boldly proclaiming the Gospel repeatedly to all peoples and all backgrounds or ethnic minorities or majorities in their communities. God is doing amazing things in the south.
Moqtada al-Sadr won most parliamentary seats last October, but he refused to negotiate with Iran-backed Shia groups to form a government, causing a year of political instability. When he announced his retirement from politics on 29 August it caused an eruption of street fighting overnight, as fighters exchanged gunfire. Tracer rounds illuminated the night sky in some of the worst violence to hit Baghdad in recent years, including using heavy weaponry such as rocket-propelled grenades. Some fighting was between the Peace Brigades, a militia loyal to Mr Sadr, and members of the Iraqi military. Some fighters Iran closed its borders with Iraq amidst the fighting, and Kuwait urged its citizens to leave immediately. A UN spokesperson has called for ‘immediate steps’ to de-escalate the situation. Iraq's caretaker prime minister has declared a nationwide curfew after unrest in several other cities, and suspended cabinet meetings. By 31 August most violence had stopped, but the country’s crisis has only deepened. See
Iraqis, Muslims, Christians and those of no faith at all tune into a radio station vastly different from what is normally heard on Middle Eastern airwaves. ‘Saut al Salam’ or ‘Voice of Peace’ is broadcast from a tiny studio in Qaraqosh and reaches 150,000 listeners, living up to its name. The programmes have no politics or conflicts. The broadcasters tell stories about the church, Christianity and Christian life, dispelling many misconceptions in the Muslim world that are passed on from generation to generation. For instance thinking that Christians just like to party and drink alcohol. Saut al Salam is changing wrong perceptions with programs on raising children, Christian music, and reporting cultural church events. Their highest hope is that listeners, a majority of whom are not Christians, will hear a message of peace, consideration and love.
Iran's proxy militias have caused the decline of Christians in many regions by adopting ‘forced immigration’. In Lebanon Hezbollah targets missionaries, impedes conversions, imposes strict dress codes and alcohol bans, and limits mixed sexes in public, in what have been dubbed ‘mini-Tehrans.’ A sizeable amount of land owned by Christians has been taken over by Hezbollah through eviction. In Iraq, initially employed to resist American forces, the Shiite Mahdi Army has changed the demography, Making Baghdad 'Christian-free' was high on its agenda when they morphed into IS. Iran had influence in Syria through the Assad family (Alawite Sunni). After the uprising Iran restructured the Syrian Army and created several militias within the Shia Liberation Army. It saved the Assad regime, killing 600,000 people, displacing 6.5 million internally, and forcing 6.6 million to flee Syria. In Yemen the Houthis have invested considerable effort into ending the Christian presence in the territories under their control.
Drought is threatening the Iraqi tradition of growing amber rice, a key element in a struggling economy. This variety of rice, which takes its name from its distinctive scent, is widely used, but after three years of drought amber rice production will be only symbolic in 2022, forcing consumers to seek out imported varieties and leaving farmers pondering their future. Rice fields normally stay submerged all summer, but that’s a luxury Iraq can no longer afford. The country’s available water reserves are well below the critical level. Officials have limited total rice crop areas to 1,000 hectares; the normal quota is 35,000. The water shortages have also led to reduced quotas for wheat farmers. Last year, the agricultural sector contracted by 17.5%, according to the World Bank.
An IS attack in October has triggered a crescendo of acts of violence against and displacement of Sunnis in a province in Iraq, bordering Iran, which has long suffered from cells operating in its dense orchards and Hamrin mountains. At least eleven people from the village of al-Rashad in the eastern Diyala province were killed. The attack was followed by retaliatory violence against local Sunnis, sparking fears of a return to the years of massive sectarian bloodshed. An operation conducted on 3 November by Iraqi security forces as well as additional security forces sent to the area has failed to quell widespread concerns and indignation. Reportedly several men were abducted and killed, followed by more of their relatives after they had been called to collect the bodies. Armed men subsequently attacked the Sunni-majority village, killing people, burning and destroying homes and farms, in retaliation for assumed ‘collusion’ by the entire local Sunni community with IS.