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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.

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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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    • Give thanks to the Lord that Barnabas Aid is able to help oppressed and persecuted Christian communities by providing grants to Christian students in higher education. Pray for those who have received this help in the past, that they will give a voice to their brothers and sisters and will help to resource, empower and protect them in the face of hostility. Ask that God’s sustaining grace will uphold those who are currently studying, often under severe pressure from the majority community, and pray that they may be equipped for spiritual leadership. Praise God for their dedication to His service, and ask Him to use them powerfully in their various vocations. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 9 hours ago

    • Almighty God, we pray that You will protect Your people in the Holy Land. We pray especially for the congregation of a church in Gaza City, whose church compound was attacked with a small explosive device on 26 February. We give You thanks that the church, school, nursery and pastor’s house were undamaged and that a fi re that was lit under the pastor’s car was extinguished when Christians came outside to investigate. We pray that the congregation may stand firm for You in the face of the threatening message that was written on the wall facing the church gate: “We’ll get you soon, O worshippers of the cross.” We ask that there will be no further attempt to attack this church or others in the area. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Taliban militants attempted to attack a Christian-run day-care centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 28 March, saying it was “a church used to convert Muslims to Christianity”. The attackers mistakenly targeted the next-door building, which houses workers on an agricultural and de-mining project, instead; two Afghan civilians, one a young girl, died in the crossfi re. All five Taliban bombers were also killed in the raid on the heavily-secured compound. The day-care centre that they were attempting to target, which is used by expatriates, is said to hold Christian worship services on certain days. Ask the Lord to change the hearts of those who plan and carry out terrorist attacks against Christians and other targets in Afghanistan; pray that they will turn instead to Him. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “He was always a light for Christ and he had a love and commitment that he expressed for the Afghan people because of that love for Christ.” The widow of Dr Jerry Umanos, an American doctor who was shot dead at the Christian-run hospital where he worked in Kabul, Afghanistan, spoke of her husband’s faith and ministry. Two visiting American Christians, father and son Gary and John Gabel, were also killed on 24 April when an Afghan security guard opened fire on the staff he was meant to be protecting. Pray for comfort for the grieving families of the three men, and ask the Lord to safeguard the future of the hospital, which provides much-needed medical care and also trains Afghan doctors and nurses. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “We ask all Christians and members of other faiths to reconsider their own beliefs and join Hinduism.” Krishna Hari Baskota, secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister in Nepal, was speaking about the application process for a new identity card that will show citizens’ religious affiliation. Christians and members of other minorities will be subjected to greater scrutiny before obtaining the official documents and will be asked to reiterate their faith. One Christian rights activist said that the government is trying to discourage people from converting from Hinduism. Pray that the Nepalese authorities will not discriminate against Christians but will treat them on equal terms with the Hindu majority. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Jul 2014 00:00

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