“If this exodus is not stopped, Iraq will not have any Christians left in three years,” says Steve, an undercover field worker for Open Doors in the Middle East.
Based on disturbing statistics on the number of Christians remaining in Iraq since the al-Qaeda-linked massacre that killed almost 60 Christians at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad on Oct. 31, 2010, an estimated 45,000 to 95,000 Christians have left the country. Many sources reported that in 1991 Christians in Iraq numbered around 850,000. In 2003 the number dropped to 550,000, and today only an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 Christians remain.
“Due to killings, attacks and threats, many Christians have lost relatives and have become so afraid that they have left Iraq for such countries such as Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan, or for countries in the West,” says Steve. As a result of the increase in violence against Christians, Iraq moved to No. 8 from No. 17 on this year’s Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecution of Christians. That was the largest increase of any of the 50 countries on the list. Dr. Carl Moeller, Open Doors USA President/CEO, labels the attacks against Christians in Iraq as “religicide.” He states, “Christians in Baghdad and Mosul are gripped by terrorism. They are fleeing in droves. Their families are threatened. Even young children are being killed. Extremists want to eliminate Christians from Iraq. The ‘religicide’ of Christians holds disturbing parallels to a previous effort to eliminate Iraqi Jews in 1948. Many Jews fled and today virtually nothing remains of the once-vibrant community. People of all faiths must unite to prevent this from happening again. We must fight for freedom of religion for all imperiled faith groups in Iraq.”
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Director of Interfaith Relations, adds, “Christians today are the largest group in the world facing life-threatening religious persecution. We have it within our power to produce a groundswell of international support for what should be an obvious right; that when a person leaves home on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday for a house of worship, he or she should expect to arrive back home safe and unmolested.”
Open Doors USA is requesting people to sign a petition to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The petition asks her to work with the Iraqi government to immediately form and implement a comprehensive plan of action to protect the vulnerable community of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq. Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Lindsay Vessey reports that the advocacy department has already faxed over 10,000 signatures on the petition to the International Religious Freedom office at the State Department. Sign the petition today!
Father, we ask for Your grace and mercy upon the vulnerable Christian community in Iraq. We pray that the religious persecution would cease against believers, so that they would not have to continue to flee the country for safety. We pray especially for the families and children who are in extreme danger, may they find both physical and spiritual refuge in You. Please help us to do all we can to advocate for them, and we ask that through this time, many more will come to know You and stay faithful to You.
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Luis Palau over the weekend delivered the gospel message at a historic celebration in Vietnam while Christians in China were arrested for meeting in public.