Displaying items by tag: Iraq
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%.
Pope Francis is making a monumental trip to Iraq in order to bring healing to the war-torn society. As the very first pope to set foot on Iraq's soil, he plans to meet with key Christian and Muslim leaders to address issues faced by both groups. This event is being heralded by the Iraqi government as a ‘historic event, symbolising a message of peace to Iraq and the whole region.’ Peace indeed is needed for the small remnant of Christians left in Iraq. Christian communities were scattered by the Daesh onslaught in 2014, further shrinking the country’s already dwindling Christian population. Their struggle to endure will get a boost from the historic visit in March, his first foreign trip since the coronavirus pandemic and a sign that ‘You’re not alone, there’s someone who is thinking of you, who is with you’.
Christians in Iraq remain shaken by the twin suicide bombing in Baghdad. It was the first mass-casualty attack since 2018, killing at least 32 people and wounding more than a hundred. IS took credit, stirring fears of a resurgence. Samuel of Redemptive Stories says believers are shaken, but they’re pressing on to make Christ known. ‘I had the privilege to talk to a pastor on the very night of the suicide attacks and he said, ‘Our spiritual condition as a church is well; our physical condition is well; but our emotional state, as a church, is sad. The church had seen three years of almost peaceable activity. Now suddenly, out of nowhere, there are these significant attacks. The hope of Christ shines brightly amid such tumult.’
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future. Early childhood education is critical for all children, particularly during a crisis like the Covid pandemic. For children who have experienced war and displacement - many of whom have lived their whole lives as refugees - it can be a lifeline, healing emotional and developmental wounds caused by years of trauma. The pandemic has hit displaced and vulnerable families the hardest, as in-person programmes have been put on hold for safety concerns. Now the IRC has adapted and uses digital tools to reach children and their families directly in their homes. It equips parents to create a nurturing and predictable home learning environment that fosters children's resilience during times of crisis and provides caregivers with ways to manage their own stress.
Dozens of activists have been killed in Iraq in recent years. In under a week, two have been assassinated and three narrowly survived murder attempts, as tensions between pro-Iran groups and a Western-leaning government claim new victims. Riham, an athletics coach who was deeply involved in anti-government protests, was shot dead in Basra on 26 August; five days earlier activist Tahsin died after being shot two dozen times. The targeted killings sent shivers down spines in Iraq’s civil society, already deeply disturbed by the killing in Baghdad of Al-Hashemi, a government adviser and widely respected historian. ‘The government and security forces have done nothing.’ said Ammar Al-Hilfi, a prominent Basra activist. In July a senior Iraqi official said the government suspected ‘possible assassinations’ as a reaction to a policy of extending state control.
From Morocco to Iraq there are various forms of lockdowns, strains on hospitals, food shortages, even martial law. These strains put more pressure on already-stressed communities. The potential spread of the disease among refugees and displaced populations could be catastrophic. Many are persecuted believers with no financial safety net and poor medical infrastructures. For war-torn Syria, the pandemic has taken the situation from bad to worse. ‘We are free from the armed militia in Aleppo, but prices here are soaring’, said Kareem, ‘We have all signed up to receive bread from the government, and the needs are overwhelming.’ In Turkey, many are Iranian converts from Islam who fled Iran after being imprisoned or tortured for their faith. Turkish locals now blame them for the spread of coronavirus. The government has cut off all assistance, and many Christians have lost their employment. The Bible advises to go to the Lord with trials and problems; this virus is a serious problem.