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Iraq - Update Newsletter from Barnabas Fund

Project(s): 20-227, 20/49-710, 20-383, 20-734

Country/Region: IRAQ

...in Iraq

The situation of Iraqi Christians is becoming more and more pressing. On 5 April a prominent Christian leader, Yousif Adil Abbodi, was assassinated in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad. He had received several death threats before.

Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria tell their stories

Iraq1_NL_0508

Christine, a young woman from Mosul, got married on 18 February 2006. Only five months after their wedding, her husband and his brother were killed by Islamic extremists, on 12 August 2006. On the day of the funeral, Christine’s father received a phone call. The caller told him: “You have a son? He is a church warden. His name is Sargam. Either you prepare $70,000 or we will kidnap and kill him.” The family fled to Damascus in Syria. When they sought asylum in a Western country, they were turned down.

Mr Toma from the Dora district of Baghdad owned a restaurant in the city. On 5 June 2006, when driving back from the restaurant, he and his two sons were stopped by two cars driven by masked men. The men forced Mr Toma and his sons to get out of the car; they separated them and took the sons with them. They told Mr Toma to “go and get $300,000”.

After the day of the kidnapping, the family received several phone calls, threatening that if they did not provide the money, they could pick up their sons’ bodies from the morgue.

Iraq2_NL_0508

The mother recounts: “They insulted us and said, you are criminals, you are Christians, you are traitors, you help the Americans... you don’t deserve to live.” Both sons were murdered. The family fled to Syria. Their applications for asylum to the US and to Australia were rejected.

Source: www.wheregodweeps.org

Whenever a church leader is attacked or killed in Iraq, the whole Christian community feels it is being threatened because of their Christian faith. Together with the church bombings in January and the death of Iraqi Archbishop Paulos Farah Rahho, who was kidnapped on 29 February and found dead two weeks later, this murder sends out a powerful message to the small remnant of Iraqi Christians and to those Christians who have fled the country: they are to leave and not to return.

Overcrowding, poverty and dire living conditions are often the lot of those refugees who manage to reach the safety of neighbouring countries such as Syria and Jordan. While the Iraqi government reports that the number of refugees returning from Syria is increasing, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) denies this. Rather, according to the UNHCR, there are still an estimated 60,000 Iraqis who are being forced to leave their homes every month because of continuing violence. Also, around two-thirds of those who do return do so only because they are unable to find work or because their residency permit cannot be renewed. Especially for Christian refugees, returning to Iraq means returning to persecution and sometimes even death. The few Christians who have dared to return find things are still worse for them in Iraq than in the country they had fled to.

...in the West

A small proportion of Iraqi Christians have found refuge in Western countries such as Sweden, the most welcoming European country for Iraqi refugees. From 2003 to 2007 Sweden has granted full refugee status to almost 25,000 Iraqi refugees, many of them Christians. This figure stands in stark contrast to only 260 Iraqi refugees who were granted refugee status in the UK in the same time period; another 2,680 Iraqi refugees were given leave to remain in the UK. The US only admitted just over 1,600 Iraqis in the fiscal year 2007, remaining well below the initial 7,000 target. However, this year Sweden has started to close its doors to Iraqi refugees as it does not have the capacity to continue helping such a large number. Migration courts decided last year that Iraq was no longer a war zone, which means that asylum is not granted automatically any more. Rather, people have to prove that they are in grave personal danger. The Swedish government has urged the other EU countries and the US to do their part to help alleviate the Iraqi refugee crisis.

How you have helped Mar ’03 - Dec ‘07
Jan ‘08 - May ‘08
Total
Iraqi Christians in Iraq £995,833 £70,000 £1,065,833
Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan
and Syria
£663,880 £84,500 £748,380
Total for food and basic needs £1,659,713 £154,500 £1,814,213

Iraq3_NL_0508
Two Iraqi Christians girls
during the aid distribution in a Syrian refugee area.
Your gifts helped to put a smile on their face

Over recent months, other voices have joined Sweden to exhort Western governments and the European Union to especially acknowledge the desperate situation of Iraqi Christians and take action to help them. When approached with this request, the presidency of the European Union expressed concerns about making decisions on whom to grant refuge based on the person’s faith. Yet it is a fact that a disproportionately high number of Iraqi refugees are Christians who have left Iraq because they have received threats, suffered severe persecution and had family members kidnapped or even killed. It is thought that only about 25% of the formerly 1.5 million Christians are still living in Iraq.

Iraq4_NL_0508
Many of the Iraqi Christian refugees who manage to reach the safety of Syria require medical assistance. Part of your gift is used to help with medical needs

How your gifts help

Churches in Syria and Jordan continue to distribute food parcels and also money for heating fuel and medicine to the many Iraqi Christian refugees who had to flee their homeland in fear of their lives. During a distribution on 23 March in one of the refugee areas of Syria, the church leader encouraged the refugees and explained the source of the gifts: “The source of donations is not oil money or such a thing. It is from your Christian sisters and brothers from all over the world”. All the refugees prayed together and gave thanks to God for His blessings and for the supporters of Barnabas Aid. Many of the Iraqi Christians feel isolated and forgotten by the Western world and the Church. Therefore, experiencing that their brothers and sisters around the world care for them means so much to these Iraqi Christian refugees.

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Iraqi Christian families who have fled to northern Iraq receive chicks and sheep to help them earn a living


Many Christian refugees from cities such as Basra and Baghdad have fled to the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq, an area that enjoys relative stability and peace, even though Turkey launched a series of attacks against Kurdish militants in this region at the beginning of 2008, which forced hundreds of civilians to flee. While their lives are not constantly in danger anymore, these Christians now need to find ways to support themselves and their families. One way to do this is to rear and keep livestock. In one area of the Nineveh Plains where Barnabas Aid is helping to support Iraqi Christian refugees through a church, almost 300 Christian families received either 40 chicks or four sheep to help them start to earn a living.


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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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Daily prayer

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  • 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 5 hours ago

  • “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

  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

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