Turmoil Taking Toll One Year After The Fall Of Saddam
SANTA ANA, CA (April 21, 2004) - Open Doors with Brother Andrew - a worldwide ministry to the Persecuted Church - has received information from several sources that Iraqi Christians and churches are seriously affected by the internal turmoil in Iraq.
Not only are foreigners being kidnapped in increasing numbers, but indigenous Iraqi Christians are disappearing. According to a bishop of an Assyrian-speaking church, four members were kidnapped last week. The Iraqi believers stress that in most cases where Iraqi Christians are the victims, the violence is not being caused by radical Islamists, but more often by young people trying to make some easy money.
In several cities, including Baghdad, both Christians and Muslims are trying to stay at home as much as possible. Various churches have canceled meetings. Although the violence seems to be the strongest in the central regions of the country, it has also reached the north.
This month marks the one year anniversary of the fall of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. April has seen some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict.
According to some Christian leaders, there is little hope for major improvement in the near future. It is hard to find capable people to govern the country. After the Gulf War, a huge brain drain took place. Many highly educated-people left the country, going primarily to Jordan and Syria.
Christians hope and pray that by the fall of 2004 new leadership may bring peace and stability. Stability and security are the two top prayer requests mentioned by Iraqi Christians, who number approximately 500,000.
Open Doors has limited travel by foreign staff members, based on advice of Iraqi Christian leaders. Meetings with Iraqi Christians continue in the region, but for the moment take place outside of Iraq. "Due to a big mine explosion on a U.S. convoy, I missed the first plane when traveling to Jordan," said one of Open Doors' Iraqi co-workers. "Also on the highway from Fallujah to Baghdad, there were a lot of difficulties." He was warmly welcomed in Amman to discuss the progress of Open Doors' special support project for Iraq.
"We have to expect some hindrances because of this increase of violence," said the co-worker. All Arab teachers invited for seminars in April, May and September have asked to postpone their training projects due to the insecurity. "We have no qualified Arabic-speaking teachers ready to come anymore," he said.
On the other hand, so far the import and distribution of Christian literature has been continuing without major obstacles.
"Iraq remains a very dangerous place not only for American troops, but for our Iraqi Christian brothers and sisters," says Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller. "Pray for security and for stability in Iraq. Pray that Christians there can worship in peace and in freedom. Pray that Open Doors' projects can continue."
An estimated 200 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with another 200 to 400 million facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors serves and strengthens the Persecuted Church in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development and prayer and presence ministry. To partner with Open Doors, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (524-2535) or go to our USA web site at www.odusa.org. To request a complimentary six-month subscription to our monthly newsletter Frontline Faith, call 888-5-BIBLE-5 or register on-line.