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Christian persecution in Iraq reaches new levels

August 12, 2014 2 Comments
Islamic State soldiers marked Christian homes.

Islamic State soldiers marked Christian homes. INSET: The image showing support on social media

IRAQ – For more than a year a militant Islamic movement, Islamic State (IS), formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has methodically captured territory in northern Iraq and Syria. The goal was to establish a caliphate (Islamic state), which it declared established on June 29, 2014. Eventually the Islamic State seeks to include the entire Middle East and institute full sharia law in its most extreme form.

As the IS fighters moved south toward Bagdad, Iraq’s capital city, their path took them through the Plains of Ninevah, home to most of Iraq’s Christian population. After entering the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, the IS militants gave Christians three choices: convert to Islam, pay a protection fee of $20,000 or die. Systematically the IS forces went through the city marking the houses of known Christians with the Arabic letter “nun” the first letter of the word “Nazria” an ancient designation referring to the “Nazarene” or Jesus. After taking over Mosul, IS captured Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq.

Reports tell of Christians and others being slaughtered, crucified, babies beheaded and women and children captured for slavery. Many have fled the region creating a refugee crisis in an area of the world in which few aid organizations operate who could provide assistance. The Christian population of Mosul where IS destroyed an 1800-year-old church and blew up the Tomb of Jonah was estimated at 100,000.

The Christian communities of the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq predate Islam and those who remain there face a grim future.

A priest from the area who identified himself as Fr. Nawar told the Catholic News Agency, “Today the story of Christianity is finished in Iraq…People can’t stay in Iraq because there is death for whoever stays.” The Christian communities of the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq predate Islam and those who remain there face a grim future.

“Nothing we have seen in recent years compares with this level of persecution,” noted LCC mission executive Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel. “Our Lord warned us this would be the case, and we must keep in our prayers all the believers in the Middle East who are waging a constant spiritual and physical battle against those who oppose Christ.” He added that “as the church of Jesus Christ strives to bear witness to the Gospel, it marches in the strength and the promises He provides: ‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’ (Luke 12:32).”

The Anglican Vicar of Baghdad asked Christians to pray that God would provide Iraqi Christians with: “protection, provision and perseverance.”

Many Christians around the world, to show solidarity with their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, and frustrated by an inability to do anything, are using social media to show their support. On Facebook and Twitter many have replaced their identifying photo with the “nun” symbol. Many share news reports to keep those in their network informed and encourage prayer.

In a Special Statement to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, President Mathew Harrison provided members of LCC’s sister synod a Lutheran perspective on supporting the persecuted Christians.

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