Iraq: Christians Join Massive Exodus from Mosul
“If this continues, Mosul soon will be emptied of Christians. This could be the last migration of Christians from Mosul.”
That’s the perspective of a representative of Open Doors in Iraq of the massive exodus of Christians and people of other faiths this week.
Some reports placed the numbers fleeing Mosul at 500,000 due to its seizure by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an Iraq and Syria-based Sunni Muslim extremist group. Mosul is the second largest city in Iraq and former home to a significant number of Assyrian Christians. ISIS has now reportedly vowed to take over Baghdad.
Many of the Christians are fleeing with only the clothes on their backs to Kurdistan, an autonomous northern part of Iraq and considered a safer place.
“The Islamist terrorists want to make Iraq a ‘Muslim only’ nation and as a result they want all Christians out,” says Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. David Curry. “The situation for Christians has deteriorated each year over the past 10 years. Iraqi Christians have faced kidnappings, threats and even death for being followers of Jesus. And they have little faith in their government to provide security as we see in the tragedy unfolding this week.”
The Open Doors representative for Iraq says that some of the Christians have found temporary shelter in nearby monasteries and in several schools in mainly Christian villages.
“When this goes on like this, Mosul soon will be emptied of Christians,” the Open Doors spokesman says. “Until Monday an estimated 1,000 Christian families still lived in Mosul.”
A Christian man in Mosul told World Watch Monitor (WWM) that he “was able to make my wife and children leave Mosul, but now I am stuck in the house and can’t move.”
The crisis worries many Christians in Kurdistan. A Christian refugee working in Erbil, an hour’s drive from Mosul, told WWM: “What is happening in Mosul now can badly affect our stay as refugees here in Kurdistan as some ISIS militia come from Syria. I hope this will make the United Nations work more on our papers for emigration and allow us to travel abroad as soon as possible; we applied to migrate to Europe.”
In the 1990’s the Christian population in Iraq was estimated at over 1.2 million. Open Doors places the number now at around 330,000.
Iraq is ranked No. 4 of 50 countries on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
The Open Doors ministry in Iraq includes trauma support, biblical training for church leaders and Muslim Background Believers, distribution of Bibles and Christian literature, community development projects and working with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kurdistan.
- The refugees will find a safe place to stay
- The Christians who still remain in Mosul will feel the peace only the Lord can give
- An end to all bloodshed and instability in Iraq
Nigeria: Open Doors Ministering to the Wounded, Hurting after Bomb Blasts
Two powerful bomb blasts in the Nigerian city of Jos killed almost 200 people, mostly Christians, on May 20. Open Doors workers visited the surviving victims several times to pray with them, encourage them and give financial support. “We had to show them that there is life after the bombs,” says an Open Doors field worker. “Their hope is to be found in Jesus Christ.”
Was there no warning? No omen in the sky? No sign that terror was about to strike? Looking back one can always identify signals. Just a few days before two bombs caused so many casualties near a market place and bus terminal in Jos, the Nigerian police arrested a man wearing a belt with explosives. He admitted others had been dispatched too, and a violent attack was imminent. Most of the hundreds of shop owners and their customers had no idea. But the Muslims among them did. Why else would their shops be closed an hour before the attack?
The first bomb was so powerful it instantly killed dozens of people. It created absolute havoc. Emergency personnel rushed to the scene. Most of the victims were women and children who were shopping at the market. Half an hour after the first bomb, the second one – another improvised explosive device planted in a car – went off, killing many of the rescue workers as well as others who were trying to help the victims of the first explosion.
The scene was almost indescribable. The bombs shattered windows and destroyed buildings. There were blood and body parts everywhere. The smell of burning human flesh filled the air. People screamed. The wounded were carried to empty trucks, which sped off to get them to hospitals.
The next day, Open Doors workers arrived to evaluate the needs of the survivors in hospitals.
“Our goal was to assess the number of wounded and see if we could give practical help,” explains one of the team members. “What was even more important was that we wanted to give them a message of love and of hope. We told them, ‘We have come to assure you that God loves you. Our ministry loves you and we are praying for your situation. Though your situation is very difficult, God is powerful and able to heal you and give you the hope and strength to live again for Him.'”
Seventy-seven people, most of them Christians, were in hospitals. It is a custom in Nigeria for family members to be responsible for feeding their hospitalized relatives. But some of those we met hadn’t even been able yet to notify family members and were dependent on hospital staff donating money and food to them.
Open Doors soon returned a second time and was able to give each patient food and make a financial contribution towards their medical bills.
“When some days later we made another round through the hospitals, there were only about 50 wounded left,” said an Open Doors worker. “Some were able to go home; but others had succumbed to their injuries. To those who were in hospital, whether they were Christians or Muslims, we tried to show the love of Christ. Especially the Muslims were touched by the fact that we offered financial support to them. A Muslim named Ali Umary said, ‘I am grateful. May the good Lord bless you.'”
The wounded Christians also responded emotionally. “The help came when I needed it most,” said Yakubu Tizhe. “Even more importantly: the love attached to the gift is what impresses me most.”
Meanwhile, the road to recovery is long for all wounded survivors and all those who lost loved ones. Boko Haram’s relentless violence also continues to rip Nigeria apart. While Christian president Goodluck Jonathan repeated that he is committed to win the war against terror, the Nigerian churches call upon their international brothers and sisters to pray with them.
Nigeria is ranked No. 14 on the WWL but is No. 1 on the World Watch Top 10 Violence List released last week.