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PERSECUTION International Christian Concern | September 2012

Fear of the

Faithful Islam’s Threat to Iraq’s Ancient Christian Heritage The location for many Biblical narratives, Iraq has one of the oldest and deepest claims to Christianity. Yet the Church is under great pressure to flee the country, as radical Islam uses intimidation, force, and murder to eradicate the “infidels.”

Read how your donations are transforming the lives of Iraqi Christians.

A young boy from Iraq kisses his crucifix, showing his honor and respect for Jesus.

Your Bridge to the Persecuted Church


IN THIS ISSUE:

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FEAR OF THE FAITHFUL Islam’s threat to Iraq’s ancient Christian heritage.

9 STORIES FROM IRAQ’S SUFFERING CHRISTIANS First-hand testimonies of the plight of an Iraqi Christian.

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NO BUSINESS BECOMING CHRISTIANS A message to Iraq’s Kurdish Christian converts.

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15 YOUR DOLLARS AT WORK Read how your donations have helped transform the lives of Iraqi Christians.

BOMBINGS & KILLINGS CANNOT INTIMIDATE THE “MARTYR CHURCH” OF KIRKUK Kirkuk’s Christians know all too well the cost of following Christ.

FAMILY OF CHRISTIAN CONVERTS TOLD TO“RETURN TO ISLAM OR DIE!” A family is put at great risk by a neighbor.


A NOTE FROM THE PRESIDENT Lenin once said, “One death is a tragedy, but a million is a statistic.” Although Lenin was evil, he was brilliant and dead-on in his analysis of society, human nature, and how we deal with massive loss. We met Raad, a Christian living in Baghdad, on our trip into Iraq in May. He is haunted by the murder of his 15-yearold daughter and his five-year-old son (see “Iraq’s Suffering Christians,” page 9). Stop Raad anywhere he goes and he will pull out the pictures of the bloodied and lifeless bodies of his children after they had been gunned down because their father was a Christian. He walks through life trailed by ghosts and by the memory of a life that is gone forever. Raad is one of the few Christians that has stayed in Iraq. A million others were killed or fled for their lives. Iraq’s Christians are nothing but a statistic. Unarmed and undefended by the U.S. in the war in Iraq, they ended up as a bloody soccer ball kicked around by the Sunnis and Shias in their winner-take-all game for control of Iraq. There were 1.4 million before the war. Now? Just 400,000. With so many stories of heartbreaking loss and cruelty, it is easy to turn away and focus on pleasant things. Please don’t. Instead, keep Raad in mind as you think of Iraq’s Christians. Then, please join me in bandaging and building His persecuted Church. It is a holy work, worthy of your touch, time, and treasure. Please know that ICC will use your gifts ethically, efficiently, and effectively.

Jeff King, President International Christian Concern


MIDDLE EAST

FEAR Faithful of the

Islam’s Threat to Iraq’s Ancient Christian Heritage

A young boy from Iraq kisses his crucifix, showing his honor and respect for Jesus.

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To increase our awareness and efficiency, ICC routinely sends representatives to regions all over the world, making contacts and examining current projects. Last month, Regional Manager for the Middle East, Aidan Clay, traveled to Iraq to investigate this ancient land of Christianity, and the tyrannical persecution the Church is facing today. Rounds of gunfire echoed through a neighborhood east of Mosul one cool December evening, just a week before Christmas. The shrill cry of a child followed and it wasn’t long before passersby realized what had happened—more Christians had been killed. Returning to their car after a family outing, Adnan Elia, his wife Raghad, and their two children had walked right into an ambush. Armed assailants opened fire on the parked vehicle, killing Adnan and Raghad instantly. The children, sitting in the backseat, were wounded but survived. It wasn’t difficult for police to figure out why the family was attacked. They were Christians, a declining minority that Islamist militants hoped to annihilate from the city. “[Our] department had received information on a plot against the Christian minority in Mosul during the upcoming Christmas holidays,” said the Police Chief of the Nineveh province the week of the attack. Assassinations of Christians in Mosul have become a routine occurrence. In recent incidents, a respected Christian doctor was shot point-blank in the head on January 15, 2011 and the corpse of a Christian photographer, kidnapped on March 19, 2012, was found four days later riddled with nine bullets shot at close range. “The faithful are afraid,” said Amel Shamon Nona, the Chaldean Archbishop

of Mosul. “Fear is the result of years and sad moments of recent history, in which the community has been hit… Christians are bearing all the dangers.” The “recent history” that Nona refers to began for Iraqi Christians in 2003 after war erupted to depose the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Since the U.S.-led invasion, a new type of tyranny has taken over: Islamic extremism. Christianity’s ancient heritage has neared the brink of extinction in several Iraqi cities, including Mosul, where Shia and Sunni militants fight for control of the streets and murder defenseless Christians who they see as the enemies of Islam.

“THE FAITHFUL ARE AFRAID. FEAR IS THE RESULT OF YEARS AND SAD MOMENTS OF RECENT HISTORY, IN WHICH THE COMMUNITY HAS BEEN HIT...CHRISTIANS ARE BEARING ALL THE DANGERS.” -AMEL SHAMON NONA,

CHALDEAN ARCHBISHOP OF MOSUL

“We are being attacked by fundamental Muslims because somehow we are being connected to the United States, somehow we are connected to Europe. They still think we do not belong to this country,” Yonadam, an evangelical pastor in northern Iraq who’s named has been changed for security reasons, told ICC. “But, you will see that Christians were the first people to this area. They serve the country, they love the country, and they love the community. But this is Islam. These Muslims cannot live in peace with other groups. They tell us, ‘If you are Muslim then we will be OK with you. If not, then you are against us,’ even if we are helping them.” IRAQ’S CHRISTIAN HERITAGE It was not long ago, however, that Christianity thrived in Iraq. ICC reYou can help today! 800-ICC-5441

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RELIGION IN IRAQ (Left) A Christian cemetery in Alqosh. (Right) Men praying in Kadhimain Mosque, the largest Shia mosque in Baghdad. As Christianity diminishes, Islam continues to grow.

cently journeyed to the heartland of Christian Iraq, where Assyrian—a modern dialect of the Aramaic language used by Jesus—is commonly spoken and where priests in ancient churches read from Scripture texts inscribed by hand in 400 AD. Driving past small Christian villages that dot the flat plains running from Mosul, the ancient city of Nineveh, to the mountains of Kurdistan, we set out to find Alqosh, one of the few towns where the Christian community remains intact. Christians have inhabited Alqosh, meaning “The God of Righteousness,” since the Apostle Thomas was believed to have brought the Gospel there around 33 AD. It was in Alqosh where the Prophet Nahum—a descendent of Jewish exiles taken to Assyria in 722 BC—was believed to have been born (Na. 1:1) and where, in the surrounding plains, the prophet Jonah remorsefully visited the Assyrians after being commanded by God to call them to repentance. Not until the 7th century—more than 600 years after the establishment of Christianity—did Islam come to Iraq, and with it came immense persecution. “The Khalifah [al-Mutawakkil who reigned from 847 to 861 AD] was a hater of Christians, and he afflicted them [by ordering] them to bind

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[band-lets] of wool round their heads; and none of them was to appear outside [his house] without a belt and girdle,” Abul-Faraj (1226-86) wrote in his history of the Abbasid Caliphate which ruled from Iraq between 762 – 1258 AD. “In [1001 AD] the Arabs rose in tumult against the Christians in Baghdad, and they looted their houses. And they also put forth their hands against the churches to destroy them.” Persecution under Islamic rule has continued ever since. Now free from the brutal control of Saddam’s secular Baathist regime, Islamic fundamentalism has resurfaced as the primary threat on the Iraqi church. “Fundamentalist Islam is growing and becoming an increasingly [disturbing] phenomenon,” said Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk. “Extremists want Islamic law to be the basic law of the State, to protect their religious and ethnic identity from the ‘atheist corrupt’ West.” In the southern port city of Basra, for example, only six of fourteen evangelical churches still exist. “Eight churches were closed because the Christians left,” said Pastor Yonadam. “There were 2,400 Christian families in Basra, now we have only 400 families. They don’t understand what


IRAQ’S VANISHING CHRISTIAN POPULATION

1987 1.4 million Christians live in Iraq 2012 400,000 Christians live in Iraq

is going on and they [are told] they don’t belong to Iraq. They cannot have a good future for their children in this country. Their daughters are told they cannot go to school in some areas unless they wear a scarf. And, if a Muslim wanted to marry a Christian girl, she cannot say no. She will be killed if she says no.” Basra is not the only city being emptied of Christians. Thousands have also fled from Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, and towns throughout the region. Facing relentless persecution, including more than 60 church bombings and thousands of premeditated executions, kidnappings and forced expulsions from the country, the hopes of many Christians are quickly fading. In Baghdad, the final blow came in October 2010 when 58 Christian worshippers were killed during a four-hour siege on a Syriac Catholic church, which became the worst massacre of Iraqi Christians in recent history. “We’ve had enough now. Leaving Iraq has become a must,” said Jamal Habo Korges, a Christian mechanic in Baghdad. “We’ve been suffering since 2003 and we can’t take it anymore. The latest carnage is the final warning.” A 1987 census revealed that 1.4 million Christians lived in Iraq. Today, there are fewer than 400,000. Those who leave either become internally displaced – most going to the less violent Kurdish north – or flee

the country altogether. Of the two million Iraqi refugees worldwide, nearly half reside in neighboring Syria. Twenty-five percent of them are Christian according to local church leaders – a stark comparison to the four percent that made up Iraq’s Christian population prior to 2003 and an indication that Christians have suffered more than most groups since the outbreak of war. “If all of Iraq was given to me, I would not go back. There is no life, no law,” said an Iraqi Christian mother now living as a refugee in Turkey. A PART OF MY FAITH IS HOPE There are many Christians, however, who have chosen to stay in Iraq, trusting in God’s provision no matter what the cost, to minister to their people and encourage the church. For them, hope can still be found in the midst of grave persecution and severe hardship. “As a Christian, a part of my faith—a very sensitive part—is hope,” an Iraqi pastor who survived two bomb attacks on his congregation in 2011, recently told ICC. “If we don’t have hope in our [Christ] then whatever we preach, whatever we teach, is nothing. The church here in this land has faced many troubles, many hard times, but survived. And, it still exists. And, I believe it will exist until Jesus returns back.”

The Final Warning Christians have been chased out of their hometowns by radical Islamists who harass, threaten and murder believers. “We’ve had enough now. Leaving Iraq has become a must. We’ve been suffering since 2003 and we can’t take it anymore. The latest carnage is the final warning,” said Jamal Habo Korges, a Christian mechanic living in Baghdad.

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“No Business Becoming Christians” A MESSAGE TO IRAQ’S KURDISH CHRISTIAN CONVERTS

From the ancient Assyrian churches to the Protestants and growing Evangelical community, no Christian group or denomination has been spared from church bombings, targeted killings, and widespread persecution in Iraq. There is one group, however, that is set apart. These Christians face persecution from additional fronts, often times from their own families and even the Church. These are Muslim converts to Christianity. Whereas Assyrian Iraqis are accepted as Christians by ethnic identity, Arabs and Kurds are told that they have no business becoming Christians. To convert is illegal according to the constitution and those who do are sought out and sometimes killed. “There have been times when we were not allowed to worship in Orthodox churches,” Nazar, an Arab convert from a Sunni Muslim background, told ICC. “Since we were born Muslims, we are told to stay good Muslims. The churches are afraid the community will rise up against them if we are seen in their services.” In Kurdistan, northern Iraq, an increasing amount of Kurds are turning to Christ. In Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk, and throughout the region, former Muslims fill the pews on Sunday morning to worship Jesus. These are among the only churches in all Iraq where converts—whether Arab or Kurdish—are accepted and able to worship freely. One Kurdish pastor, whose name has been withheld for his own security, oversees a church of 11 families and 47 individuals, all of whom are converts from Islam. The pastor explained that while Kurdish Christians are given some security by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the brunt of persecution comes from local Muslims who are urged by radical mullahs (an educated Muslim, who teaches) during Friday prayers to attack Christians.

A Fury of Fire A Christian-owned business goes up in flames while the perpetrators, a group of young Muslim men, watch it burn down to the ground.

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“SINCE WE WERE BORN MUSLIMS, WE ARE TOLD TO STAY GOOD MUSLIMS. THE CHURCHES ARE AFRAID THE COMMUNITY WILL RISE UP AGAINST THEM IF WE ARE SEEN IN THEIR SERVICES.” -NAZAR, MUSLIM CONVERT TO CHRISTIANITY In the northern city of Zakho, for example, a group of young men went on a rampage in December, attacking and burning Christian-owned businesses, including hotels, beauty salons, and liquor stores. The riots erupted after a local mullah


blamed Christians for the city’s moral corruption. “The extremists prepared themselves to attack on more locations ... but they were prevented by local police and security,” said Yonadam Kanna, a Christian member of the Iraqi parliament and secretary-general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. “THE PROBLEM IS THAT THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH OF US, SO THE GOVERNMENT BOWS TO THE DEMANDS OF THE ISLAMISTS. UNLESS WE UNITE AND MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD, THE GOVERNMENT WILL NOT LISTEN TO US.” -KURDISH PASTOR Although the relatively secular KRG has sought to protect Christians, including converts, radical Islamists are gaining increasing influence throughout the region. “A top KRG official told me that he supports the Christians, because we are good citizens and we support them,” the Kurdish pastor explained. “The problem is that there are not enough of us, so the government bows to the demands of the Islamists. Unless we unite and make our voices heard, the government will not listen to us.” The pastor has tried to mobilize the Kurdish church by gathering 250 signatures demanding that the government legalize conversions. “It’s not enough to simply change our identification cards from Muslim to Christian or to remove the religious status altogether,” he said. “If an Islamist government comes to power, they will look at our birth certificates and know that we were Muslims. Instead, we need absolute freedom in this country to choose our own religion. The constitution must be changed to allow this.” Discrimination has become routine in the lives of Kurdish Christians, who are often denied jobs and housing. “We’re always told to pay a higher price for rent or we’re denied a house because we’re converts,” the pastor said. “Muslims will often tell us, ‘I can’t rent this house to you until I ask advice from the mullah first.’ The mullahs almost always deny us.” The increasing influence of Islamists has become the greatest threat to Christianity in Iraqi Kurdistan. Many of the 1,600 Christian families that sought refuge in the Kurdish

Community of Fear Young Muslim men leave a local mosque after Friday prayers, intent on purifying the village, Zakho, of what they consider moral corruption. There is growing concern among Christians in northern Iraq that Islamic extremism, as preached in local mosques, will usher in a violent future for the area, specifically targeting Christian converts from Islam.

north after fleeing persecution in the south repacked their bags after the attacks in Zakho. While the KRG has pledged to assist the refugees, it is failing to protect them. None of the rioters were arrested because, Christians say, the government is too afraid of the “reaction from Islamists.” Without justice, however, Islamists will likely grow emboldened and mob violence against the Christian community will escalate. “Now I am searching for a way to emigrate, to leave Iraq and to leave Iraqi Kurdistan forever,” said Wasim Hanna, a Christian man in his twenties. “Sometimes, I think they want to see us extinct.” “We have our Lord to protect us and guarantee our rights,” added a Christian woman from Zakho. “God is our only guarantor.”

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STORIES FROM

Iraq’s Suffering Christians

Raad Azo shows pictures of his children, murdered at the hands of Muslim terrorists. “They took my life when they killed my children,” Raad said.

“Shut it off! Shut it off!” three armed Islamic militants shouted while pointing to the community’s power supply.

Christian community, which once thrived in Dora, soon disappeared completely.

“I won’t do it,” responded Aphrem, who stood between the generator and the approaching terrorists in the neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad.

“Many of my Christian friends were raped in Dora,” Lina, who was 12 years old at the time, told ICC. “[A Muslim militant] came to my father and said, ‘I want to marry your daughter. She’ll become a good Muslim.’ So my father immediately sent me away to live with my aunt.”

“Infidel!” the terrorists yelled and opened fire. Aphrem fell to the ground. The terrorists hit the switch and left, going from door to door to kill any Christian they could find. “My son was very brave,” Aphrem’s mother, Nedal, told ICC. “He tried to save the lives of his Christian neighbors, but now there are no Christians left in Dora.” Trouble for the Christian community in Dora began in autumn 2004, when Sunni militants bombed churches and kidnapped civilians. Persecution grew even worse in 2007 when al-Qaeda declared Iraq to be an Islamic State. Christians were given few choices: convert to Islam, leave, or die. Proclamations appeared on walls and were circulated in leaflets. Women were told to wear veils and men were banned from wearing shorts or trousers. The Assyrian 9

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“The two largest Christian neighborhoods of Dora and Karada are now void of all Christians,” said Canon Andrew White, the pastor of St. George Anglican Church in Baghdad. “They had bullets put through their doors, they had letters warning them to leave, and they were given a choice—either you pay the Jizya tax, you convert to Islam, or we kill you.” An Islamic campaign to eliminate the Christian community quickly spread from Dora throughout all of Baghdad. When ICC visited Baghdad in May to meet with Christians that still remain in the war-torn city, every story we heard recalled horrific violence and grave hardship.


“WHAT DID MY BELOVED CHILDREN DO TO DESERVE THAT?” “Muslim terrorists found out I was a Christian so they came to my home to kill me,” Raad Azo, a kiosk owner in a majority Muslim neighborhood in Baghdad, told ICC. Raad’s 15-year-old daughter, Ranin, heard the terrorists knocking at the door. “She thought it was her daddy coming home from work,” Raad explained. Ranin jumped off the couch to greet her father. Opening the door, she was shot four times and her little body dropped to the floor. Blood flooded the entryway. Aziz, who was just five years old, had been playing nearby. The terrorists turned on him, killing him instantly with one shot to the head. “What did my beloved children do to deserve that?” Raad asked while fighting back tears.

While they were hiding in obscure hotels and plotting their escape, a family relative eventually found them. With a knife and gasoline, he entered their hotel room, but only found Ala’a present. Pinning Ala’a to the ground, he poured petrol over his cousin’s body from the neck down and lit her on fire. “I’m doing this because you’re a Christian and you’re going to have to marry a Christian now,” Ala’a, then 14 years old, recalls him saying. Ala’a’s younger brother Muhammad found his unconscious and badly burned sister on the floor and sought help. Ala’a was confined to a hospital bed before she and her family could flee Mosul to Erbil and later to Turkey for refuge. Ala’a’s story is all too familiar. On December 30, 2010, Islamic militants invaded the homes of seven Christian families in Baghdad. One woman was found the next day, mutilated, and hanging by a rope in her living room. Another elderly couple, Fawzi Rahim, 76, and his wife Janet Mekha, 78, answered their ringing doorbell where they were met by an explosive.

Raad shows photos of his two children to everyone he meets; a constant reminder of the war’s cost and what it means to suffer for Christ. “I will never forget,” Raad said. By 2011, 80 percent of “When I went there, I found both of “They took my life from me when Baghdad’s Christian them cut to pieces near the gate of they killed my children.” population had left the their house,” said Janet’s brother. country due to intense Raad, too poor to leave the city, was persecution by the THE ROOT OF IRAQ one of only a few thousand Christian Islamic State. families who stayed in Baghdad. By The persecution faced by Iraqi Christians early 2011, 80 percent of Baghdad’s over the past ten years is difficult for a Christian population had left, joining westerner to digest. When contemplating more than a million Christians nationwide such routine suffering and mass slaughter, we who became refugees in neighboring counmay be tempted to tune out the horrifying reality with tries. the distractions of our own daily lives. “Of course I cannot ask anyone to stay,” said Father Douglas al-Bazi, whose Chaldean parish in Baghdad had dwindled But then we remember the perseverance of the saints; those from 2,500 families in the 1990s to less than 300 today. who are fighting the battle every day that we only read about. “Everyone tells me, ‘Father, I am sorry—I [must] leave.’ I They remind us that we serve a God who will not desert and tell them: ‘Don’t be sorry, OK? No one is pushing you to die, who is mighty enough to save. For that reason, a Church remnant remains in Iraq. They have counted the cost of folwhat’s the benefit of dying?’” lowing Christ and have decided to go all the way. “An Iraq void of Christians will be an Iraq without hope,” they tell BETRAYED BY FAMILY ICC time and time again. Ala’a and her family were among the displaced, fleeing to Turkey three years ago from Mosul in northern Iraq. Her “I don’t want to leave the country, because I know God has parents converted to Christianity in 2005, the result of a a reason for putting me here,” Lina said. “Christians are the close friendship with a local Chaldean bishop who encour- root of Iraq. We need to share the love of Jesus to everyone. aged them to read the Bible. Three years later, Ala’a’s family If there is a place without the love of Jesus, it will be a very learned that the bishop had been murdered after their con- dark place and no peace or hope will exist there.” version had become known.

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MIDDLE EAST

Counting the Cost The walls of a Syriac Catholic church tumble to the ground in Kirkuk on Aug 2, 2011. The destruction of the church was the first of three attempted bombings on churches in Kirkuk that day. Kirkuk’s Christian community, who has witnessed relentless persecution, knows all too well that following Christ comes at a great cost. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

Bombings & Killings Cannot Intimidate the

“Martyr Church” of Kirkuk

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A sound like thunder startled residents from a deep sleep as dawn approached one August morning in northern Iraq. Walls shook and windows in more than 40 nearby homes shattered to the floor and in the faces of 13 people still lying in their beds. Within seconds, vehicles transformed into twisted piles of metal and the wall of a Syrian Catholic church tumbled to the ground. The blast was only the first of three coordinated bomb attempts on Kirkuk churches that day. “We were the next to be bombed,” a Protestant pastor in Kirkuk told ICC. “Terrorists brought a pick-up truck with about 60 kilograms of TNT. After we heard the big explosion at the nearby Catholic church, we went out and saw the smoke and suddenly we found


the car. “We learned there was a terrorist chained to [the seat] and the handle brake was the exploding device,” the pastor continued. “But the terrorist was not ready to explode himself. At the last minute, he opened the chains and he ran away. That was the first time they tried to explode our church.” Only two weeks later, while injured residents were still returning from the hospital, a second round of bombings hit the city’s Christian community, this time targeting the Syriac Orthodox Church of Mar Afram. The church had already survived two bomb attacks since 2006, but this was the final blow. “They will have to demolish the church and rebuild it,” said a local pastor, overwhelmed at the sight of the blown-out wall and wreckage. Louis Sako, the Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, was awakened by the blast, which went off less than a kilometer from his home. “The people in the church… were so very tired and shocked. They were asking: ‘Why our church? What is the reason?’” the Archbishop explained. “There is no justification for attacks like this. We Christians have no part to play in politics. We are not causing people any problems. This is only happening because we are Christians. Maybe the people responsible want to empty the city of Christians. Pray for us. We are afraid.” Christians in Kirkuk are no strangers to persecution. In 2011 alone, two churches were bombed and at least six Christians were kidnapped for ransom. Two of them were found dead days later, their bodies riddled with bullets. A third, 29-yearold Ashur Issa Yaqub, was tortured and beheaded.

“CHRISTIANS OF IRAQ… KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO BE PERSECUTED, KIDNAPPED AND KILLED. WE KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO BE POWERLESS. WE ARE AWARE OF THE DANGERS, BUT OUR FAITH GIVES US THE COURAGE TO CONTINUE TO HOPE AND LOVE. “ LOUIS SAKO, THE CHALDEAN ARCHBISHOP OF KIRKUK

Photo courtesy of the Ankawa News.

The Church Will Not Be Silent Although a bomb attack on the church in August 2001 damaged the building beyond repair, the Church of Mar Afram continues to gather for worship in spite of their loss. “Christians of Iraq… know what it means to be persecuted, kidnapped and killed,” Archbishop Sako told an audience at a prayer gathering in Paris last June. “We know how it feels to be powerless. We are aware of the dangers, but our faith gives us the courage to continue to hope and love. Our Church is apostolic… because it is a martyr Church as was the Church of the apostles. Like the Iraqi martyrs whom we cannot forget, we find the strength to persevere, hoping for a change in men’s heart, in which a divine seed grows… I am convinced that the sacrifice of 973 Christians… will not be in vain.” The Christians who remain in Kirkuk—having witnessed the flight or death of most fellow congregants—have learned what it means to “take up [their] cross daily and follow [Jesus]” (Luke 9:23 NASB). For them, to follow Christ comes at a great cost, yet it is their privilege to suffer, as He has suffered, for the sake of the Gospel. “I hope that all what is happening in Iraq today, will only serve to consolidate the firmness of faith of our Christians and their solidarity with one another,” said Yohanna Petros Mouche, the Syrian-Catholic Archbishop. “No matter how big the evil may be, it can’t shake faithful hearts. Brave souls stay firm.” You can help today! 800-ICC-5441

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FAMILY OF CHRISTIAN CONVERTS TOLD TO

“Return to Islam or Die!” Ibrahim and Hania tried desperately to conceal their faith for the sake of their daughters’ safety, but they could not keep their secret forever.

“We will kill you and your family because you attend the church!” read a note left on Ibrahim and Hania’s doorstep. “Return to Islam or die!” Ibrahim, Hania, and their daughters, (names changed for security), formerly Shia Muslims, accepted Christ as Lord seven years ago in Kirkuk. Persecution has followed them ever since. “Our neighbors saw us leaving the same time every Sunday morning,” Hania told ICC. “They suspected we were going to the church and eventu-

Even more than hunger, however, Ibrahim and Hania deeply regret that they cannot give their daughters a good education. “There is no hope for our girls in Iraq,” said Hania while wiping back tears. “I would give anything to get them out of this country so they can have a future.” At the local public school, Narya and her older sister are forced to memorize the Quran. When asked by her teacher if she is Christian or Muslim, Narya does not know how to answer.

After fleeing their home to central Iraq in February, the family now sleeps on the floor of an unfurnished room and prays every morning that God will provide their daily bread. “Every day is uncertain. Some days we find food, but other days we go hungry,” said Hania. “But, we can’t tell anyone about our suffering because we’re afraid our neighbors will find out. We can’t tell our families because they will come after us. We are all alone. Only God provides for us.” 13

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“Some people tell me it’s my fault we have troubles, because I am a Christian,” said Ibrahim. “I am so confused, but I will not deny God… My children are suffering.”

WHERE ARE THEY NOW

“SOME PEOPLE TELL ME IT’S MY FAULT WE HAVE TROUBLES, BECAUSE I AM A CHRISTIAN. I AM SO CONFUSED, BUT I WILL NOT DENY GOD.” -IBRAHIM ally found out that we had left Islam for the Christian faith.”

cards say they are Muslims, they cannot enroll in Christian schools, and they must take Islamic religion classes. And, when they get older, they will only be allowed to marry a Muslim.

“Narya knows she is Christian, but her identification card says she’s Muslim,” explained Hania. “It’s illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity.” Narya keeps silent, hopeful the question will be dropped. Narya, who is only seven years old, is faced with daily pressures that no child should have to endure. Her parents, like many converts in Iraq, struggle to raise their children as Christians in a society that will only accept them as Muslims. If the children say they believe in Jesus, they face beatings and scorn from their teachers. Because their identification

ICC visited Ibrahim and Hania in May to deliver money for rent and food. However, the family is still in need of funds to send their two daughters to school. Not only are these Christian girls forced to study the Quran, but they are also receiving the worst education offered in the Middle East in Baghdad’s public school system. Without a private education, these girls will have no hope of going to college. And, in Iraq’s male-dominated society, they will have a hard time finding jobs and will likely face pressures to marry a Muslim man at an early age.


AFRICA

G N I R E F F U S E H T E V E I L E R S N HELP A I T S I R H C N A I R OF NIGE

How You Can Help:

The Problem Burn the buildings so they cannot worship; kill the Christians so there is no one to worship. That is the strategy that Boko Haram is using to depopulate Northern and Middle Nigeria of Christians. They are motivated to turn all of Nigeria into an Islamic State. They are organized, motivated, armed, and deadly. Wherever they go, death, blood, and pain are in their wake. Please join us in our holy work of bandaging and building these broken ones and His persecuted Church. We will use your gifts efficiently, effectively, and ethically. I promise. Jeff King

FERTILIZER AND SEED FOR CHRISTIAN FARMERS

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The majority of Christians affected by violence in the area we are targeting for help are farmers. With a donation of $37, you can purchase a 50-lb. bag of fertilizer for a Christian farmer and his family to increase their harvest.

REBUILDING CHRISTIAN HOMES

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With a donation of $500, you can help rebuild Christian homes destroyed by radical Islamic attackers.

“BLESS THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU�

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SUSTAINING WIDOWS AND CHILDREN

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With a donation of $217, you can purchase a male and female goat for a widow and her children. The family is able to breed the goats and sell them at a local market, which provides a steady income.

We believe that one of the best ways to break the cycle of hatred is to love. Jesus told us to bless those who hate us, and pray for our persecutors. For this reason, we are also providing aid to Muslim families. For $12, you can provide rice for a family of five for a week that will be distributed by a local Christian, and help plant seeds of reconciliation.

You can help today! 800-ICC-5441

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YOUR DOLLARS AT WORK Muslim women shuffle out of Kadhimain Mosque, the largest Shia mosque in Baghdad.

EVANGELISM TO MUSLIM WOMEN IN IRAQ Hand of Hope: Middle East At a secure location in central Iraq, hundreds of Muslim women—most of them fully veiled— gather together to hear the Gospel. The women do not attend every week, fearful that their steps will be traced and their husbands will find out. Yet, despite the dangers, many of them have secretly accepted Christ as their personal Savior. Others come simply because they are drawn by the grace and love of Jesus—a foreign concept in the Islamic teachings they grew up with—and because the Holy Spirit is actively moving them toward faith. During ICC’s recent visit to Iraq, we were able to support this important ministry by providing much needed furnishings. With air-conditioning that battles the brutal summer and enough chairs to go around, the women are now able to worship and hear about Jesus in comfort. Through discrete methods, ICC is supporting Muslim evangelism in Iraq’s most persecuted regions. We believe that the best way to fight persecution is to encourage the growth of the Church. Only when Muslims hear the truths of Scripture and respond by proclaiming Christ as Lord and Savior will persecution cease.

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You can help today! www.persecution.org


RAAD: A SUFFERING FATHER Hand of Hope: Middle East

Mural of 50 worshippers, including two priests, brutally killed Oct. 31, 2011 at a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad.

As you read about Raad on page 9, “Stories From Iraq’s Suffering Christians,” you learned that two of Raad’s children were murdered by Muslim terrorists. The terrorists went to Raad’s house, but only his children, Aziz and Ranin, were home. The terrorists—wanting to send Raad a message—killed the children instantly. The militants’ warning was clear: leave Baghdad or be killed. Raad tried to flee with his three remaining children—ages 13, 11, and nine at the time—but he was unable to afford the expenses of travel and resettlement. However, God had kept Raad and his family in Baghdad for a reason. Today, Raad serves at a local church and his children say they will never leave their homeland. ICC was able to greatly bless the family with some much needed aid that covered the cost of rent and food. Raad only has one leg, having lost the other as a soldier in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, making it difficult for him to find full-time work. But Raad continues to praise the Lord, thanking God for providing during his most difficult times of hardship and suffering.

A COMMUNITY IN NEED: AIDING SURVIVORS OF THE BAGHDAD CHURCH MASSACRE Suffering Wives and Children

2010.

Next month marks the two-year anniversary of the Baghdad church massacre, when Islamic militants held more than a hundred Christians hostage at a Syriac Catholic church on October 31,

Two years later, many congregants who survived the massacre still suffer from post-traumatic stress from having witnessed the brutal murder of their family and friends. ICC is working to assist these families with much needed Christian counseling and aid. In one case, for example, ICC is preparing to assist a widow whose husband was killed in the attack. Because of your generous donations to our Suffering Wives and Children fund, we are able to offer this widow vocational training while also helping her begin a small business. Additionally, we will help with Christian trauma counseling and provide aid for food and rent until the business renders a sustainable income.

Raad (right) with an ICC staff member. Raad is thankful for the support that ICC donors provided, which have helped to alleviate some of the burden of being handicapped and unable to relocate his family out of Iraq.

This widow had lost her husband and sole provider because of extreme anti-Christian violence. She has lived in poverty ever since and is haunted by memories of family and friends being shot and torn to pieces by explosives around her. Your generous donations are helping to rebuild her life. You can help today! 800-ICC-5441

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YOUR DOLLARS AT WORK

STORY OF NEDAL Suffering Wives and Children

JOWANEH & MARIAM Suffering Wives and Children For Jowaneh Benjamin, the Iraq war would cost her everything. Driving home from work one evening, Jowaneh’s daughters, Ebtisam and Enas, were ambushed in their car by Muslim militants. Ebtisam was yanked from the vehicle and shot four times in the head. The terrorists next turned on Enas, murdering her in the back seat. Jowaneh was informed of her daughters’ murders when asked to identify their bodies at a morgue. She tearfully remembers the moment when she saw her daughters laying lifeless on the floor. “I screamed,” Jowaneh said. “Why my Lord, Why has this fate fallen on your children?” The grief was unbearable for Jowaneh. “I wish I had died and not my daughters… It should have been me… It should have been me,” she lamented. Just when it seemed that life could not get any worse, Jowaneh’s husband died from a heart attack and, near the day of his funeral, a third child, Susan, was kidnapped by terrorists. Like Ebtisam and Enas, 17

You can help today! www.persecution.org

Susan was known to be a Christian. Her faith would cost her life as she was later found beaten to death in a back alley in Baghdad. Jowaneh soon decided it was no longer safe to live in Iraq. She took her remaining daughter, Mariam, and fled to a refugee camp in Syria. After two long years, Jowaneh was finally granted immigration to the United States. Because of your generous donations to our Suffering Wives and Children fund, ICC was able to help Jowaneh and Mariam settle into the Chicago area. Moreover, ICC reached out to Chicago-based churches to help this suffering family. Several churches immediately responded to the call by giving food, sending a specialist to Jowaneh’s home to offer Christian trauma counseling, tutoring Mariam in English, and helping Mariam find a job. Today, the family is doing well and they are so thankful for the support they’ve received.


RELIEVING THE BURDEN OF A SINGLE MOTHER Suffering Wives and Children As you read about Nedal on page 9, “Stories From Iraq’s Suffering Christians,” you learned that Nedal’s two sons both died due to radical Muslim violence. If that was not heartbreaking enough, her husband suffered a heart attack soon after. His death made Nedal the sole provider for her surviving daughters. Putting six daughters through school is no easy task for a single mother in Baghdad. While a local church has helped Nedal by giving her a job, she has often had to sacrifice meals, clothes, and rent to save a little extra cash to pay for tuition. During ICC’s visit to Iraq, we were able to bless Nedal with a sum of money to help relieve her burdens. The money was

HOW YOU CAN HELP

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used to pay rent and purchase food. Even two months after ICC delivered the funds, Nedal continues to show her gratitude. “I’m so thankful to ICC for the help,” Nedal told an ICC ministry partner in Baghdad in late July. “It was a blessing I never expected and the money is still being used to help my family. I can’t say how glad I am. God is faithful to provide for all my needs.”

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SUSTAINING WIDOWS AND CHILDREN

With a donation of $500, you can help a Christian widow start a small business. This financial gift will either provide vocational training or purchase the materials needed to bring in a monthly income that will sustain the family’s livelihood in spite of their great loss. Or, you can choose to support the See page 15 trauma counseling of Christians who for an example case witnessed their friends and family killed before their eyes. Trained Christian counselors will help them through their grief so they are able to function and provide for their children. Mural of 50 worshippers, including two priests, brutally killed Oct. 31, 2011 at a Syriac Catholic Church

WHEN GIVING TO THIS FUND PLEASE SELECT “SUFFERING WIVES AND CHILDREN” AND SPECIFY “IRAQ WIDOWS” IN THE COMMENT SECTION.

Nedal (left) with an ICC staff member on the day she received funds to help with the cost of rent and food for her six daughters.

SPONSOR THE CHRISTIAN EDUCATION OF A CHILD WHOSE PARENTS CONVERTED TO CHRISTIANITY FROM ISLAM

ICC has befriended the families of four beautiful children who are forced to attend Islamic classes and memorize the Quran in school because they are considered to be Muslim. Their parents have suffered greatly for following Christ, but their biggest concern is for the spiritual growth and future of their children. For $1,000 you can sponsor a child’s private Christian education for one year, which will also prepare the child for college and prospering employment, something they will never have if they continue in Baghdad’s Islamic public school system. In return, ICC will send you reports of the See page 14 child’s progress and photos. This is an in- for details about one credible opportunity to change a child’s of these families life and bring them up in the admonition and love of Christ. MIDDLE EAST

WE ARE LOOKING FOR FOUR DONORS TO COMMIT TO PROVIDING TUITION FOR THESE CHILDREN. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, PLEASE CALL MICHELE AT: 800-ICC-5441

You can help today! 800-ICC-5441

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YOU CAN HELP TODAY! SEND DONATIONS TO: ICC PO BOX 8056 SILVER SPRING, MD 20907 OR ONLINE AT WWW.PERSECUTION.ORG OR BY PHONE 800-ICC-5441

GIVING TO ICC VIA YOUR WILL Provide now for a future gift to ICC by including a bequest provision in your will or revocable trust. If you would like more information on giving to ICC in this way, please give us a call at 1-800-ICC-5441.

DONATE TO ICC VIA YOUR WORK Federal employees! You can give to ICC year-round through the CFC. The CFC allows you to regu#10988 larly donate to ICC by making a pledge during the campaign season from Sept. to Dec. Donations are taken through payroll donation. To give to ICC, just enter #10988 on the Pledge Form at your place of work.

ICC makes every effort to honor donor wishes in regards to their gifts. Occasionally, a situation will arise where a project is no longer viable. In that case, ICC will redirect those donated project funds to one of our other funds that is most similar to the donor’s original wishes. International Christian Concern is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) (all donations tax-deductible).

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© Copyright 2012 ICC, Washington, D.C., USA. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce all or part of this publication is granted provided attribution is given to ICC as the source.

ICC's September E-Newsletter, Persecution  

International Christian Concern's newsletter, Persecution, highlights the tests and testimonies of persecution Christians around the world.

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