(AINA) -- The Barnabus Fund, an organization that assists persecuted Christian minorities by prayer and practical support, has issued an urgent appeal on behalf of the Christians of Iraq:
The Christian community in northern Iraq is facing ever mounting intimidation and violence. Since the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan (15th October) the situation has escalated, with the apparent aim of forcing the Christians out of their homeland. Tens of thousands are fleeing. International media reported the first incident, when explosions occurred at five churches in Baghdad just after 4.00 a.m. on Saturday 16th October (2nd Ramadan). But the other threats and attacks on Christians go largely unreported. Photographs of three senior bishops in Mosul are being circulated around, with the message that they are agents of the USA, infidels, and action must be taken against them. The church leaders serving the Christian community of Karakush, Mosul, have received two letters from the Islamic militants. The first ordered them to allow Christian women to marry Muslim men (which in Muslim eyes means the women effectively convert to Islam). This, said the letter, would enable the women to be "blessed" and "purified" by their marriages.
The second letter to church leaders, received yesterday 2nd November, announced the militants' intention of killing one person in every Christian family, as a punishment for the women not covering their heads and not going to university. This follows up pressure and threats from Islamic extremists against all women in Mosul, requiring them to cover their head with the hijab (Islamic headscarf). A Christian woman was killed around 26th October for having her head uncovered. Two other Christian women who were seen bareheaded in a market had nitric acid squirted in their faces. Specific threats about the clothing of female students at Mosul University have so frightened the Christians that an estimated 1,500 Christian women have stopped attending their classes.
Islamic militants are knocking on the doors of Christian homes in Mosul, demanding money. They argue that since the Christians do not contribute weapons and do not fight, they must make a financial donation instead. This follows exactly the model of classical Islam, whereby Christians and Jews were excluded from fighting for the Islamic state but instead required to pay a special tax – jizya – to cover the costs of their protection.
Leaflets are being distributed with the message: "Christians go; leave Iraq." Word is being passed around in the mosques, telling Muslims not to buy anything from the Christians. Not only are they infidels, it is said, but also they will soon be leaving, so the Muslims will be able to take their homes and property for free. PRAY
- In this grave situation, the Christians in Iraq beg for the prayers of their Christian brothers and sisters elsewhere. Ask the Lord to protect them from those who would harm them, and to fill their hearts with faith and hope.
- Please also write to your MP (or other local political representative) asking them to raise the suffering of Christians in Iraq as a matter of utmost urgency with the Foreign Secretary (or equivalent in your country) and call for their immediate intervention to protect Iraqi Christians. Please also write to the US embassy in your country urging a similar course of action.
- Barnabas Fund will shortly be sending out a lobbying request through its Rapid Lobbying Network with further information about writing to MPs and others. Please contact Barnabas Fund if you would like to receive this.
The Barnabas Fund
The Old Rectory
River Street, PEWSEY
Wiltshire, SN9 5DB
Tel 01672 564938, Fax 01672 565030