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Death threats against Christian owners of torched shops in Iraqi Kurdistan

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Iraq

Death threats have been issued against the Christian owners of shops that were torched by Islamists in an outbreak of violent attacks in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.  

zakho-riots-4x3.jpg
Islamists set ablaze 20 shops in Zakho
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

The violence erupted in the city of Zakho after Friday prayers on 2 December. Hundreds of Muslims, apparently incited by the imam’s vitriolic sermon, headed straight from a local mosque to businesses owned by Christians and Yezidis, another minority group; they set ablaze 20 shops, three hotels, a massage parlour and a hair salon. At least 30 people were injured, and several million dollars’ worth of damage was caused.   

The Muslim mob swelled to more than 3,000 and moved on to attack Christian property in the city of Dohuk, the town of Sumaili and village of Shiuz.  

The attackers were chanting “Allahu Akhbar” (“god is great”) and abusing Christians, while some were randomly firing shots.

They reportedly torched one man’s restaurant, shop and cafeteria before moving on to his apartment, which they set ablaze with his children inside.  

The following morning, more than 100 people, mainly youths, threw stones at a church and homes belonging to Christians in Almansoria.

On Monday (5 December), leaflets were put on the walls of the burned shops threatening the owners with death if they reopened them.

A Barnabas Fund partner with whom we have worked on projects in Iraq said:

[Kurdistan] is, in most part, a safe and secure and all inhabitants enjoy prosperity and security, until now at least! The future is, by all means, bleak to the Christians and other minorities living there.

Some local sources have blamed the Islamic Union of Kurdistan for the attacks, which are believed to have been pre-planned, though the group has denied responsibility.

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani said on Saturday (3 December):

Unfortunately, on Friday some mullahs and a group of youth committed unlawful acts and caused instability in Zakho. They attacked some tourist locations especially those of Christians and Yezidis and it seems the attacks had been pre-planned.

Mr Barzani said instability in the Kurdistan region was unacceptable and that a special committee will investigate Friday's incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Thousands of Iraqi Christians have moved to Kurdistan to escape anti-Christian violence in other parts of the country. They have generally been welcomed and safe there, but this latest incident indicates that the area may no longer be a refuge for them.  

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  • On this Good Friday, give thanks to God for the death of Christ and for His gift of eternal life. Praise Him too for the example of those Christians who have persevered in their faith at the risk of their lives and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Pray that their martyrdom will inspire their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ to endure whatever hardships befall them and will convince their persecutors of the truth and power of the Gospel. Pray too that their bereaved families and churches will not grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 17 hours ago

  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

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