The future looks bleak for Christians in Iraq, as the Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict spreads across the Middle East.'
The Iraq war has been a tragedy for Christians in Iraq and the Middle East, leading to a massive exodus of historic communities from the lands of the Bible. Iraq once boasted one of the most established Christian minorities in the region, dating back to the birth of the faith. But Christians have left in their droves since the war against Saddam Hussein in 2003.
"Christians have lost their trust in the land and the future," Chaldean Archbishop Bashar M Warda said, "The attack on Christians has been immense. Pray for their safety in this chaotic situation." As the haemorrhage from Iraq continues, observers say just a quarter of a million Christians remain - while upwards of four-fifths have fled the country.
Iraq is now considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian, ranking close to the top of the persecution watch lists. The exodus gathered pace when law and order broke down after the invasion of Iraq. Today the Christian presence is dwindling, not only in Iraq, but in the surrounding nations.
Christians have been driven out by extremists who have flourished in the power vacuum created by the toppling of Saddam Hussein. "In our visits to help persecuted Christians, many ordinary Iraqis told us that things had been better for believers under Saddam Hussein," says Release Chief Executive, Paul Robinson. "Few had fond words for the dictator, who kept the church under tight surveillance and imprisoned some evangelicals, but the constant refrain was that Iraq had been safer under Saddam.'
When the allies removed Saddam and dismantled his army and system of government, they kicked open a door to chaos, extremism and religious cleansing. Significant numbers of Iraqi children have been traumatized by conflict and are considered easy prey for radicalization. "The war has sown the seeds of religious violence for a generation," says Paul Robinson, looking back on the Chilcott Report into the Iraq war. Even though the Iraqi army has been gaining ground, large swathes of the country remain under the control of Islamic State, the terror group that sprang from al-Qaeda. Islamic State (IS) has demolished churches and confiscated Christian property. Their fighters have abducted Christian and Yazidi women as sex slaves.
Let us pray for the current situation in Iraq. Let us join in prayer and see the Lord's hand changing lives!
Who we are.
We are ones who want to see God move in the Near East and are praying for the people and cities in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq.