Pray for true freedom of religion and from persecution. Islamists vociferously demand exclusive rights for Muslims with full implementation of shari’a law. Christians of all confessions, Yazidis, Mandeans and even heterodox Muslim groups face “protection tax”, kidnapping and paying ransom, destruction of their property, rape and murder. The government and police are not yet strong enough or inclined enough to offer substantial protection. Muslim leaders – both Shi’a and Sunni – are increasingly progressive, conciliatory and unity-oriented, but extremist groups have their own agenda and continue attempts to sow terror and destabilize the country. Pray that Christians might persevere in this difficult situation; pray also for their protection and preservation.
The Christian community has lived an unbroken existence in Iraq since the 1st Century, but this legacy is at risk of disappearing. The majority are Assyrians and descendants of the Nestorian, or Ancient Church of the East, centred in Nineveh and Mosul. The Nestorian Church was one of the greatest missionary denominations of history, winning 6% of all of Asia’s population 1,000 years ago. Today, it is reduced through persecution, harassment and compromise to less than two million in the world. Christians in Iraq, the victims of sustained persecution and even genocide, are now only half of what they numbered in the 1990s. Most have fled persecution to Syria or Jordan, others to the West. Few are likely to ever return. Two-thirds of Baghdad’s churches are closed or destroyed. Pray for the preservation of Iraq’s biblical heritage, and for the restoration and rejuvenation of this most historic of Churches.