Displaying items by tag: Iraq
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.
Recently you prayed for eighty women on a spiritual retreat. Today we received this message: ‘The Lord answered your prayers abundantly! Thank you for praying for the many ladies suffering persecution from their families for their faith in Christ. This retreat gave them hope and allowed them to worship freely. One woman, overwhelmed with thankfulness, said her faith is growing and she looks forward to sharing Christ with others. Another woman, in tears, said, “The retreat taught me what it is like to be loved and valued by God and others”. Time and time again we see broken, weary, fearful attendees who have experienced suffering, trauma, and loss. But through God’s grace and power, after just a few days, a distinct, palpable transformation occurs. Hope-filled smiles and laughter, healing of past wounds, restoration of soul and spirit.’
80 persecuted women in northern Iraq are experiencing three days in a Help The Persecuted spiritual retreat this weekend. They will have a safe place to stay, hear from Godly speakers, receive biblical counseling, and worship together. Cala has lived in a refugee camp since IS invaded in 2014. She always believed in God and tried desperately to draw near to Him, but never knew what was missing. She heard about Jesus through the internet, asked a visiting pastor about church, and accepted Christ in 2020. Her Yazidi community persecutes her, and she has been kicked out of the camp several times. Cala feels very isolated, and her heart’s cry is to serve the Lord. Pray that she and her 79 companions will be encouraged as they build relationships with other Christian women, accepting each other now in unity as members of the Body of Christ.
Many believe Iran and IS are ready to jump in and fill the void as Joe Biden withdraws troops from Iraq by the end of this year. They are emboldened because of the fall of Afghanistan. IS had apparently been absolutely defeated in Iraq, but it restarted in 2019. In the last three months they have been aggressively reorganising, setting up checkpoints and attacking Christians and others around the Kirkuk area. Iran is also showing its infiltration and its might against American interests inside Iraq. Meanwhile, the prime minister has encouraged over one million Christians who fled in recent years to return. Christians still in Iraq warn that there has not been sufficient change to guarantee safety. Open Doors questioned the wisdom of the government statement, saying, ‘How can Christians return to Iraq while many are still living in undignified conditions and facing persecution from Sunni and Shia fundamentalists?’ See
Thirteen aid groups have warned, ‘Over 12 million people in Syria and Iraq are losing access to water, food and electricity and urgent action is needed to combat a severe water crisis.’ Rising temperatures, reduced rainfall and drought deprive people of drinking and agricultural water and are in turn disrupting electricity as dams run out of water. This impacts the operations of essential infrastructure including health facilities. Five million people in Syria directly depend on the river. In Iraq, the loss of access to water from the river, and drought, threaten seven million people. 400 square kilometres of agricultural land risk total drought. Two Syrian dams serving electricity to three million face imminent closure. Communities including displaced people in camps have witnessed a rise in outbreaks of waterborne diseases since the water shortage. Swathes of Iraqi farmland, fisheries, power production and drinking water sources are depleted of water. Wheat production is depleted by 70%.