Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Persecuted Church: Iraq - Part 2

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:10-12

How beautiful are these words. Spoken by our Lord Who suffered for our sake the ultimate persecution, they are intended to bring us comfort amidst increasing hatred. There are many brothers and sisters around the world who daily face what Jesus warned would come. But in spite of it, they "rejoice" and are "glad" because they know that, regardless of what the world may bring upon them, they have a far greater "reward" awaiting them. They boldly and fearlessly continue to present the Gospel of salvation to their dark corners of the world for God's honor and glory. One such man in the city of Mosul, Iraq faithfully goes forward in his witness to Muslims who are looking for answers about God.

"Hassan" watched as 10,000 Christians fled the city of Mosul because of the dangerous threats against them. Fearful for his own life, he, too, went to Lebanon where he established connections with a church. But it wasn't long before the church asked him to return to Mosul as a missionary and plant churches in Iraq. It meant returning to a war zone, but Hassan felt that "the war provided a great opportunity to advance the Gospel". Once back in his own country, a house church was established and within five months had 60 members.

It wasn't long before an "Imam" from a local mosque ordered his execution for converting Muslims to Christianity. In the attempt, Hassan was shot and paralyzed from the waist down which forced him to return to Lebanon. In his wheelchair, he continues to encourage others about Christ and supports the evangelists who remain in Iraq. As he so eloquently stated, "They are carrying a bigger and heavier cross than most Christians. And despite this difficult situation the salvation of souls is taking place in big numbers among masses in Iraq. They are going and hiding under the wings of the Lord and knowing Him as Savior, and then they are more zealous and determined to witness about the gospel to other people like them...Pray the Lord will intervene directly to strengthen, encourage and empower us to do His work so that we can bring truth to Iraq."


Fourteen year old Aysa Ahmad Muhammad's crime was considered severe and unjustifiable by the strictures of Islamic Law. She and her family had publicly converted to Christianity, a blasphemous and "shameful" act, according to her Uncle and other extended family members. On July 9, 2006, her Uncle entered her family's kitchen utensil store and began cutting Asya's mother and severely beating Asya, or Maria, as she is also called, and her little brother. Fearful for her family's lives, Asya fatally stabbed her Uncle and was sentenced to five years and placed in prison where she remained until November 10, 2008. Because of her good conduct, Asya was given early release. However, there is great fear that extended Muslim family members may retaliate. Her father, Ahmad Muhammad Abdurahman, has received threatening phone calls. “My sisters called me, and my brother’s wife called me also [and said], ‘You are a shame. Don’t be happy in your family; we will never let you be happy in your family,’”. Please pray for their safety.


Refugees from Iraq often end up in nations where allegiance to Islamic Law also prevents them from living in safety. According to Compass Direct News, approximately one third of those who fled the violence in Iraq to Turkey have returned to their native land only to have the hatred for them renewed. Many of them have asked to be given a safe haven in one of the Western nations where they can live and worship in relative peace. As one refugee points out, “We don’t have hope,” he said. “If these doors aren’t opened, we will be killed.” Compass Direct News has received reports that those who returned to Iraq are once again leaving.


Before closing, I would like to honor a few of those who faithfully gave and defended the Gospel and are now at rest with the Lord:

Ziwar Mohammed Ismaeel - February 27, 2003; shot dead in front of his taxi stand by a Muslim man who believed he was “'fulfilling the will of Allah'” by killing an apostate from Islam. “'I don’t feel guilty for doing it,'” the killer told police investigators after his arrest."

Father Boulos Iskander, 59 - October 9, 2006; kidnapped and beheaded

Elder Munthir - November 26, 2006; kidnapped and murdered

Fadhila Naoum, 85, and Margaret Naoum, 79 - March 26, 2007; alledgedly murdered by robbers, although a police chief ruled out attempted theft

Father Ragheed Ganni and 3 church Deacons - June 3, 2007; kidnapped and shot to death

Hazim Thomaso Youssif - October 4, 2008; shot to death. According to VOM, the rampage against Christians continued: "...Oct. 6, a disabled 25-year-old shopkeeper was shot and killed in the neighborhood of Karama. Four other Christians, a pharmacy employee, a disabled man who owns a spare-parts store, and two day-laborers have also been killed."

Thank you for your continued prayers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What beautiful witnesses for the Lord. So far we are so blessed in this country that we don't have to face the harsh persecution that these people do. It is so easy for us to worship as we please but I can see where the end to that is probably coming soon. I will pray for these people and all the other's around the world who are persecuted because of our Lord. I can't wait to see them in Heaven.