Northern Iraq No Longer Safe for Christians – From World Watch Monitor
An increase in violence against Christians in northern Iraq has increased the flow of Christians leaving the country. The north, generally considered a relatively safe area of the country, had become home for many Christians fleeing from the tumultuous central and southern regions. However, several bombings in the north in recent months have caused panic among the Christian community. On Sept. 22, a suicide bomb went off outside the home of Christian politician Emad Youhanna in Rafigayn, part of the Kirkuk province, injuring 19 people, including three of Youhanna’s children. Several bomb attacks have also taken place in the northern city of Erbil, for which al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. In early September, Christians in the village of Deshtakh complained that they were facing harassment from local police. A group of Christian young people said that policemen told them that they “should not be in Iraq because it is Muslim territory.”
Violence in the south of the country is also escalating. Church leaders in Baghdad say that there are attacks on Christians every two or three days. A spokesperson for Open Doors said that although many Christians are still choosing to stay, the fear is that if the violence continues, they may decide they have little choice but to leave. “It remains urgent to pray for the future of Christianity in this country,” he said. “If the present trend continues, there might be no Christians left in the whole of Iraq by 2020.”
Iraq is No. 4 on the Open Doors World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries in which Christians face the most intense persecution.
“Christians in Iraq are on the verge of extinction. Large numbers of persecuted Christians have fled abroad or to the (until recently) safer Kurdish region, where they face unemployment and inadequate schooling, medical care and housing. The church faces many challenges – members being killed or abducted, and a lack of capable leaders,” reports the World Watch List.
Christian under Fire in Somalia
AFP, a French news agency, reported on Sunday that a suicide bomb attack in a restaurant in the central Somali town of Beledweyne killed at least 15 and injured an unknown number of people on Saturday. The attack targeted the restaurant that is popular with African Union soldiers from Ethiopia and Djibouti and Somali government soldiers. Beledweyne is a strategic town 185 miles north of the capital of Mogadishu and close to the Ethiopian border. Al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda linked extremist group responsible for the four-day siege on the Westgate mall in Nairobi in September, claimed responsibility for the attack.
In the Somali Federation, Christians remain marginalized, threatened and criminalized. Ranked No. 5 on Open Doors’ 2013 World Watch List, it ranks among the countries where Christians face extreme persecution. As explained in the dynamic country profile for Somalia, persecution there nearly always means extreme physical violence. In every sphere of life – private, family, community and national – discovery of being a Christian means danger; often execution on the spot. An Open Doors field staff member gives testimony of Somali believers, “Amid the hardest times of persecution and executions of Christians, they have remained steadfast, holding on to their Christian faith secretly.”
Al Shabab is stepping up its offensive in many parts of East Africa. Pray that the governments in these regions will be able to drive out Al-Shabab
Pray for God’s protection for Christians
Thank the Lord for the testimony that despite the dangers they face, Christians in Somalia have been given the grace of perseverance by God. Pray that He will continue to do so and to extend His Kingdom in Somalia.