Heartbreaking news from Iraq

As the horrors of the situation in Gaza and the fate of flight MH17 dominate the news agenda so the fate of Christians in Iraq and Syria begins to slide off the agenda. But under the rule of ISIS in Mosul the few remaining Christians suffer appalling treatment. Stripped of everything they are forced to flee their homes on foot as Mosques loud speakers threaten their death if they remain. One of the organisations I support – Release International tells their story:

According to reports, IS militants stopped some fleeing families at checkpoints and confiscated their belongings, including money, jewellery and mobile phones.

The Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar M Warda, told Release: ‘Christians have lost their trust in the land and in the future. Since 2003 [the allied invasion of Iraq], two-thirds of the Christians have left the country. June was the first month in 1600 years in which Mosul did not celebrate any mass. The attack on Christians has been immense. In the future I imagine Iraq becoming a country where you have many Christian sites, just for tourism – due to the families that are leaving.’

Other church leaders painted an equally gloomy picture.
Gradually, a picture of life under the IS militants who have seized much of Iraq is emerging. Ahead of their invasion, they distributed videos of public beheadings, mass executions and public crucifixions of enemies they had executed.

Such was the firestorm of fear that this Sunni terror group whipped up, that the largely Shia Iraq army deserted in droves, leaving their weapons and the territory to the militants. IS has now declared a Caliphate in Iraq and Syria and has become an umbrella group for various armed factions willing to pledge allegiance to the self-proclaimed Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

‘The terror is palpable,’ says Release Chief Executive Paul Robinson, ‘and that fear is driving Christians from their homes. If IS behave true to their form in Syria, then the Christians who remain in Iraq under their control can expect to live a life of subjugation under their brutally-enforced variation of Islamic law, and to have to pay for the privilege.’

The coming of Islamic State is just the latest tightening of the screw on Christians. Persecution has been relentless since the downfall of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Christians have been killed, car-bombed and gunned down in their churches.

News from Cebu after Typhoon Haiyan

Regular readers of this blog will know that before I was Rector of St Giles I was a CMS Missionary in Cebu in the Philippines, not too far from where Typhoon Haiyan made ground fall recently. Most of my work was in rural coastal villages, which are affected every year by storms and Typhoons. The Pastor Glemar who continues the work we began wrote in his prayer letter in September this year:

Pray also for the living condition of the people in the community. They need other means for sustainable income. Most of them are fishermen. Sometimes have good catch, and sometimes only enough for the day. They are mostly affected by the condition of the weather in our country. If there is typhoon, their source of living might be suspended for they cannot go out for fishing. So please pray for them.

I haven’t heard directly from those who we knew in Cebu, but looking through the news reports it seems that our areas escaped the worst of the storm damage, and were ‘relatively’ unscathed. I have also picked up a couple of emails from missionary friends who are still in the Philippines and who have contats in Northern Cebu and Tacloban, the areas which have suffered such devastation. One of these writes:

The most intense part of the storm went across the islands where we have many of our churches. The church buildings and the surrounding towns and cities were hard hit.

Already many of our churches from the less affected areas are responding with aid. Convoys of food and water are even now working their way along the roads made dangerous by downed trees and power lines, and threats of looters toward the devastated cities. The people of our churches will bring both physical aid the good news of the gospel. They are not waiting for groups from the outside, but are acting now.

I want to encourage you to contribute generously to the relief fund set up by Converge Worldwide. These funds are overseen by our church leaders in the Philippines who we know and trust. These funds will supply aid to where it is desperately needed. This aid, brought by our churches, will provide a wonderful testimony of the love of God, and create an ongoing opportunity for the advance of the gospel.

As a church we are supporting the Typhhon Haiyan Relief effort through our Mission Partner Christian Aid who has partner agencies working in the affected areas. You can find our more about there work and support them financially here – Christian Aid Typhoon Haiyan Appeal.

Pray for Cebu

Before coming to St Giles I was a missionary living and serving in Cebu city in the Philippines. It was an incredibly rich time and I have an enduring love of the people and affection for the country and city. This last week Cebu was close to the epicentre of the worst earthquake that the region has known for 25 years.

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The photo above is of some of the damage in Mandaue city, close to where I lived and where many of our church members where from (courtesy of Big Picture).

The BBC have more on the story here though it has hardly featured in the national news, possibly 150 have been killed; keep the country, city and church in your prayers.

 

 

Praying for Syria – Day 30

From Open Doors:

Open Doors has been working in Syria for a number of years, to serve the church through leadership and discipleship training, Bible distribution and trauma counselling. Pray for discernment for Open Doors teams as they consider how best to strengthen the church in Syria, not just in the short term but also for the longer term task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.