Monday, 30 June 2014

Prayer for Iraq and Syria

 There are major challenges in this region at the moment with the ongoing war in Syria and the new outbreak of violence as large parts of the country of Iraq are being taken over by the extremist Sunni group, ISIS.  Iraq is now divided into three:  the mainly Shi'ite south run by the Shi'ite-biased Maliki government, Kurdistan, an autonomous region in the far north of Iraq, and in between, the mainly Sunni north captured by ISIS.

ISIS have now declared that a large swathe of land in Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq under their control as an Islamic State or Caliphate.   Meanwhile the Iraqi Army is trying to dislodge them from the cities they have taken, particularly Tikrit.

The main concern in both these conflicts is that Christians are caught in the middle. There are significant Christian populations in both Iraq and Syria, and whatever tolerance there has been to Christians in the past has all but evaporated in areas of conflict - and Christians have been targeted by both Shi'ite and Sunni groups.

Many Christians have been murdered as part of ongoing atrocities by the two large Muslim groups, and a considerable number have been displaced to refugee camps.
This is what Open Doors reported:

Up to 1,000 Christian families have fled Iraq's second largest city of Mosul after it was taken over by militant jihadists. Taking only what they could carry, Christians fled to the relatively safe 'Kurdish' region or to the Christian Nineveh district in the countryside. The militant army, called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), took control of Mosul early on 10 June, prompting a mass exodus of citizens.

Reports from the BBC indicate that up to 500,000 people have now fled the city. The situation in and around Mosul is becoming much worse, said Open Doors' representative for Iraq. "Mosul soon will be emptied of Christians. This could be the last migration of Christians from Mosul." "We didn't even stop for our shoes, we fled in our sandals!" Open Doors sources report that some 200 Christian families are sheltering in the monastery of Mar Mattai some 12 miles from Mosul.

A further 50 families are sheltering in a monastery in Alqosh. Others have fled further afield to Erbil, capital of the Kurdish autonomous region of Kurdistan, where they are taking refuge in local churches. "We left the food and ran," said one mother of four. "We didn't even stop for our shoes, we fled in our sandals! We just made sure to take our IDs and important papers. The children were very scared."

A church leader shared: "Pray that we can return quickly to Mosul, because the future is unknown for us all. How can we live, find work for an income? Pray for peace in Iraq," he added. "We have had enough of wars. Nowhere is safe here." Since capturing Mosul and much of the Nineveh province on Tuesday, ISIS has moved on to take the city of Tikrit, and the towns of Saadiya and Jalawla in Diyala province. A highly fanatical al-Qaeda offshoot, ISIS is notorious for killing Shia Muslims and Christians. Its core leadership is made up of Iraqis, but its rank and file hail from all corners of the Arab world, as well as Europe and south Asia.

Source: Open Doors; World Watch Monitor; Guardian; BBC 

UPDATE  22nd July

The Islamic State (formerly ISIS) have told all Christians to leave Mosul or face execution.   It is thought that all but a few have now fled to the relative safety of Kurdish Northern Iraq.

Source:  Baptist Times

Please Pray: 

That those who have had to flee their homes will find a safe place to stay
For protection for the Christians who have been displaced and for the very few who now remain in ISIS held territory/
That the Iraqi government and other international leaders will have wisdom in handling the crisis.
Pray for an end to all bloodshed and instability in Iraq and the wider region.
Pray that world leaders will act wisely as they try to respond to what is happening in this region.