Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Friday 24 November 2006
Barnabas Fund Latest Appeal IRAQ - Fear and Hope
As we approach the season of Christmas, and the frenzied preparation and celebration that we anticipate, let us take time to pause and remember those Christians who will not be able to enjoy a peaceful time with their family and friends this Christmas...
*** PLEASE NOTE: Some details contained within this article may be upsetting due to the nature of its content. ***
Fear in Iraq
...Christians like the thousands of frightened Iraqis who face Christmas in the context of escalating anti-Christian violence. In the most shocking report from Iraq we have received, a toddler was kidnapped in Baghdad in October 2006. The mother could not afford to pay the ransom, and so the kidnappers killed the child. They returned the body to the mother. The little child had been beheaded, roasted and was served on a mound of rice. In another incident a 14-year-old Christian boy was held down by his limbs and beheaded, or, as Iraqi Christians have described it, "crucified". His Muslim attackers called him a "dirty Christian sinner" and chanted "Allahu akbar" (Allah is great).
- On 4th October a bomb exploded in the mainly Christian district of Camp Sara, Baghdad. As people gathered round to help the wounded there was a second, larger explosion. Nine Christians were killed. The attack was similar to two consecutive car-bombs, small and large, detonated outside a church in Baghdad on Sunday 24th September
- On 10th October Paulos Iskander, an Iraqi church minister, was abducted in Mosul. His family attempted to meet the kidnappers' demands - a $40,000 ransom, and a public repudiation by Iskander's church of the remarks about Islam quoted by Pope Benedict XVI in September. They began arranging several loans, and thirty large posters were placed on churches in the city, distancing the Christians from the Pope's words. However, Iskander's decapitated body was discovered on 12th October, dumped in an outlying suburb of Mosul. His hands and legs had been severed, and his body showed signs of severe torture. On 19th November another church leader, Doglas Yousef Al Bazy (34) went missing; it is feared he has also been kidnapped and may suffer as Paulos did. The church community are anxiously waiting and praying for news and for his safe return.
- It is not just church leaders being attacked. In late November it was reported that bakers in Baghdad were being attacked because the diamond-shaped loaves of bread they produced vaguely resembled crosses. Christian girls have increasingly become the target in a spate of kidnappings. The girls are taken at gunpoint and are frequently raped and abused, only released if their families pay large ransoms. The shame of their ordeal, which is felt far more in Middle Eastern culture than in the West, can make the victims suicidal. One girl begged her parents not to pay the ransom, too ashamed that she had been gang raped by her kidnappers to want to go home. The family did pay and she was returned to them, but the following morning she was found dead from an overdose of sleeping pills.
Iraqi Christians understand these violent attacks as a threat, that Christians are not wanted in Iraq and this is the treatment they can expect if they stay. Many are fleeing to the Kurdish territories in the north, where the Kurds have been generous in accepting them. Others have fled to Syria and Jordan. Living as refugees in relatively safe places they are struggling with lack of resources, unable to provide for themselves and families.
A Source of Hope
The situation is grim. And yet we believe in a powerful and compassionate God who can and does rescue His people. As Barnabas Fund talks with senior Iraqi Church leaders, it is clear that the needs of Iraqi Christians are growing. Barnabas Fund is planning strategies of how we can work with Iraqi churches to help sustain the Christian community in Iraq, and how best to assist in relocating those who have fled. Barnabas Fund has been working in Iraq since 1999, supporting the beleaguered Christians, and the donations of our supporters have enabled Barnabas Fund to be a source of both hope and encouragement to Iraqi Christians.
- As the violence in Iraq continues and increases in intensity, there is a greater need for assistance for victims of these attacks. In such situations Barnabas Fund seeks to support the victims of violence in Iraq, whether by paying for medical costs, or funeral costs, or assisting the widows and children of those killed.
- The dwindling number of Christians in Iraq, many of whom are too fearful to leave their homes, are in desperate need. We are currently supporting approximately 1,445 families with food and other necessities. Food parcels go to the poorest Christian families; distribution is done by local churches to make sure the aid goes to those who need it most. Knowing that they will have a regular supply of food basics means that some of the stress of daily survival is lifted off their shoulders. They have more energy and hope to plan for their futures.
- Many Christians in northern Iraq had agricultural livelihoods before they were forced to leave their homes by Saddam Hussein. As some Christians begin to return to their villages, Barnabas Fund is helping them to re-establish their orchards so that they can support themselves. This year we were able to give a grant for 43,000 fruit tree saplings. When these are grown the Christians will have a supply of olives, apples and peaches to eat and sell. Our grants to Iraq have also included purchasing tractors for four Christian villages
- As well as our feeding and self-sufficiency projects Barnabas Fund is involved in supporting Iraqi Christians in several other ways. We supply barrels of kerosene for heating and extra blankets in the winter. Two mobile medical units are being funded through Barnabas Fund grants. We are also helping encourage Christians by covering the living costs of some Iraqi church leaders. Just £100 per month allows a pastor to minister to his church members who are too poor to support him themselves.
As the violence in Iraq continues and Christians increasingly are targeted, their needs are going to grow. Please remember your Christian family this Christmas by supporting our work in Iraq. It is your support for our work in Iraq which is giving the gift of hope and encouragement to thousands of Iraqi Christians today. We would like to say thank you to the many supporters who have been regularly supporting our feeding project, bringing hope and strength to Iraqi Christian families.
If you would like to support Iraqi Christians as an alternative Christmas gift for a loved one, Barnabas Fund will send you an attractive gift card for your friend or relative, to tell them that a donation has been made on their behalf. Click here for more details.
Please do remember our Iraqi brothers and sisters in prayer both at this time of Christmas and after the celebrations are over. There is often an increase in violence against Christian minorities at Christmas time and New Year. Pray for God to intervene, to stretch out His hand and protect His people in Iraq. Pray also that the Prince of Peace will bring lasting peace to the land of Iraq and new hope for Christians there. Thank you for your support for Barnabas Fund.
- £10 will buy a bundle of 20 saplings
- £15 provides a food parcel to help a family for a month
- £35 will support a mobile clinic for one week
- £85 will buy one barrel of kerosene to provide winter heating and cooking
- £100 will support a church minister for a month.
An average food parcel might contain:
3 tins of corned beef, 3 tins of luncheon meat, 2 tins of tomatoes, 3 packets processed cheese, 3 bottles cooking oil, 3 packets of spaghetti, 3 packets of pasta, 3 kg of beans, 5 kg of rice, 5 kg of sugar, 1 packet of tea.
If you can help, please click here to donate online using our secure server. (Please quote project reference 20-227 when you send your gift.)
Click here for details on how to send a Gift Card to a friend or loved one
If you prefer to telephone, dial:
0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. (Please quote project reference 20-227.)
If you prefer to send a cheque by post:
Click here for addresses of our regional offices and to print a donation page.
(Please quote project reference 20-227 when you send your gift.)