The eyes of Christians all over the world are on Iraq at present, and in particular the welfare of their brothers and sisters in Christ. And it’s not looking that good. Before the 2003 American-led invasion there were over a million Christians in the country. Today that figure is thought to be about 300,000. If the persecution continues it could dwindle to less than 50,000. Some even predict this might the end of Christianity in Iraq altogether.
The ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq) terrorist group is basically giving them 4 options: convert to Islam, pay jizya (a very high tax), leave or be killed. Assuming most will not convert and most will not pay fees (which implies subjugation and doesn’t really guarantee any protection), they really have no option but to leave. And that’s exactly what they are doing – in huge numbers.
It’s hard for us to sit back and do nothing. Had we no knowledge of this, no daily news broadcasts and no internet we might have an excuse. But we have no excuse. So that is why I brought this to the attention of God’s people today at our morning service. I said we can do at least 3 things in response.
1. We can stay well-informed. Keeping up with regular news reports (make sure they are reliable) keeps the need ever before us and prevents us slipping back into apathy.
2. We can give. There are a number of very solid, faithful Christian organizations that are equipped to provide aid to Christians in persecuted areas. Here are what three organizations our church have dealt with in the past are doing:
Voice of Martyrs (VOM) is currently assisting 2,000 Christians in Iraq by sending humanitarian items like clothing, water and food supplies. You can donate directly through organization’s donation page here.
Barnabas Fund is providing aid to approximately 3,300 displaced Christians from Mosul. They received food, medicines, blankets and mattresses in the places they had fled to, that is, the cities Erbil and Dohuk, as well as Qaraqosh and Nineveh Plain villages, which then had not yet been overrun by ISIS. Eight huge water tanks provided them with water for daily use. You can donate directly through there site here.
Open Doors is providing food, water, medicine, pillows, blankets, air coolers, cooking and eating utensils and hygiene kits to over 2,000 families spread over 21 villages in northern Iraq. You can give directly through their website here.
3. We can pray. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to pray for situations like these when there is deliberate, wilful and planned attacks on innocent people with the intent to kill. Yes, Jesus taught us to love and pray for our enemies. But what if those very enemies are selfishly sending innocent people to their deaths?
I asked for the Lord’s help in this and led our people in this prayer:
Lord God, come to you today with heavy hearts as we consider the terrible situation in Iraq. Our problems are nothing in comparison to what is happening. Lord, there are people dying, innocent people – caught up in this vicious war of religious and ethnic hatred, vengeance and revenge. And so we come in prayer, we cry out to you as your people have done since the beginning of time and we pray as did King Jehosophat your servant,
“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (2 Chron. 20:12)
For our brothers and sisters in Christ: Lord, be their rock and defender. Give them grace to persevere in trial and may they testify of your might and power – even in the face of harsh persecution. Father, may the testimony of your people shine against the darkness of the violence and hatred of these Islamic State terrorists. Lord we pray through their faith and their example that others may come to know you and glorify your name.
For the terrorists Lord, open their eyes to the lies they have believed and change their hearts. Bring them out of darkness and to a place a glad submission to King Jesus. May they find in him salvation and hope and joy and peace, so instead of violently attacking your people they join with them in worship and praise of your name. But Lord, if this does not happen, if their hearts are to remain in darkness, we pray that you may put an end to their violence. Lord, it is hard for us to pray in this way for we realize that means their lives may be cut short. And we, like you, do not wish for death for the wicked. But innocent lives are being taken. And we long for justice.
For ourselves – as well as the church around the world, Lord Jesus we ask that you would fill us with great love and concern for these as well as other persecuted believers. Lord, may we not be so self-absorbed in our comfort and complacency that we fail to care for your people. May we not be so worldly as to think, “they are too far away, it’s too hard – what can I do?” Save us from apathy and indifference that so easily grips our souls in times of great need.
We ask these things for your name’s sake and the gospel’s sake, Amen.
 Jizya is a tax paid by non-Muslims. The tax is the result of a centuries old contract called a dhimma. Under a dhimma, non-Muslims who lived in a Muslim state were protected under the law so long as they paid the tax: they were referred to as ahlu dh-dhimmati (people of protection) or simply al-dhimma. The arrangement is sometimes referred to as a “residence in return for taxes.”