Thursday, December 23, 2010

Iraqi Christians fear Christmas attacks

Iraqi Christians are scaling back
Christmas celebrations, fearful
of attacks.
VOM’s partner-mission Release International is reporting today that many churches in Iraq's major cities have been forced to cancel their Christmas services after extremist websites threatened further attacks.

Religious rights group Middle East Concern reports that many services in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk have been called off after threats of violence were posted online on Tuesday for the second time.

Kirkuk's Archbishop Louis Sarko told Agence France-Presse news agency that he and 10 other Christians had received threats from a group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq. This group, which has links with al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for the attack on October 31 on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad in which 53 Christians were killed.

A number of churches have decided not to put up Christmas decorations either. Instead, tall concrete barriers flank many with entrances guarded by security.

The UN estimates that 1,000 Christian families have fled from Baghdad and Mosul to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq since October 31 (read more here).

Some of the extremist threats online repeated calls for the release of two women in Egypt whom militants insist are being held against their will by Coptic church leaders. Extremists claim the women have converted to Islam. Egyptian church leaders and government officials have repeatedly denied these claims.

Iraq is one of the nations in which VOM takes to the airwaves to share the gospel and encourage believers. In June, VOM partnered with High Adventure Bible Voice to distribute 1,000 radios preset to a program called “The Voice of the Lord” to people in Kirkuk. The program reaches more than 700,000 people.

Please pray for our brothers and sisters living in Iraq this Christmas. Pray for their safety and well-being. Pray they will not be anxious, but they will know God’s peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-8).

Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
Psalm 91:9-11

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