Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hope for Iraqi Christians after years of Barnabas campaigning

The Iraqi government has pledged to help exiled Christians return to their homeland after thousands were forced to flee amid intense persecution.

The new Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, Habbeb Mohammed Hadi Ali Al-Sadr, in a statement following a meeting with the Pope last month, said the government had taken steps to preserve the country’s Christian heritage and culture.

It follows years of campaigning on behalf of the decimated Iraqi Christian community on an international stage by Barnabas Fund.

Mr Al-Sadr said: “For its part, the government has committed itself to all those who return, to give them a job, a plot to rebuild their homes and 1.5 million Iraqi dinars.”

He affirmed that the Iraqi Constitution sanctions the total equality of rights for Christians and also gave them the possibility of creating a semi-autonomous region like Kurdistan.

Anti-Christian violence

This Christian woman was forced to flee Iraq after her husband was killed
by Islamic extremists
It seems the government has finally acknowledged the problems faced by Iraqi Christians, who have been targeted in waves of savage anti-Christian violence over the last 20 years. As a result, the Christian population of Iraq has declined from 1.5 million in 1990 to perhaps as low as 400,000 today. Much of this decline took place after the invasion of 2003, with many of the remaining Christians now internally displaced.

In addition to sending practical help, Barnabas Fund has been tirelessly campaigning on behalf of the Iraqi church. Efforts were stepped up from 2003 when it became apparent the international community was unaware that a Christian presence remained in Iraq – and nobody else was speaking up for them.

Our “Save Iraqi Christians” campaign culminated in the presentation of a 42,627-signature petition in November 2008. The British and European signatures were presented to the Human Rights, Democracy and Governance Group and the Iraqi Group of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office while Russell Broadbent MP received the signatures of Australian supporters at the Australian Federal Parliament.

Last month (July) Barnabas Fund’s International Director Dr Patrick Sookhdeo held high-level talks about the plight of the Iraqi church in Washington DC, where a prayer vigil involving senior Iraqi church leaders also took place. He said:

“This is a landmark development and we greatly welcome the government’s commitment to restoring the rights of Iraqi Christians. We are deeply thankful to the Lord that their plight has finally been recognised and we pray that there will now be a significant shift in the treatment of Christians in Iraq.”

Please pray

Give thanks for the Iraqi government’s commitment to exiled Christians and pray that the pledges made will be honoured.
Pray that Christians who have fled will have the courage to return – thereby strengthening the Iraqi Church – and that they will be protected.
Pray specifically for converts to Christianity from Islam, that they too will be granted equal humanitarian rights in Iraq.


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