Iraq (MNN) — A Sunni Muslim uprising and three-way power struggle are inching Iraq closer to civil war. Christians are often caught in the crossfire as Iraq’s Shi’ite government, radicals linked to al-Qaeda, and tribal militants fight for control of key cities.
Greg Musselman, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs Canada, says daily violence in Iraq calls for daily prayer.
“We need to remember that there are those who’ve stayed in Iraq,” Musselman notes.
“They could’ve come to the United States, they could’ve come here to Canada, but they have chosen to stay. We can’t forget them, and we need to be helping them in many ways.”
A few days ago, the U.S. promised to send more weaponry to help Iraq’s government regain an upper hand. The Iraqi military surrounded Falluja with heavy artillery yesterday, attempting to overthrow fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, ISIL is active in both Iraq and Syria. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry describes them as “the most dangerous players” in the region. They’re reportedly pushing to create a Sunni religious state on the Iraq-Syria border.
At least 15 people have been killed in government and militant violence so far this week.
“It is ratcheting up, there’s no question about it,” notes Musselman. “There always had been those warnings that if the United States pulled out and the allies pulled out too soon, it could lead to a real vacuum of power. And that’s exactly what’s happened.
“Unfortunately, many people will lose their lives, and Iraq could descend into a civil war.”
Exact figures are hard to come by, but Musselman says over a million Christians have fled Iraq.
“The Church, in terms of the visible Church and the number of Christians in Iraq, has greatly decreased,” he says. The pastors who remain are dedicated, Musselman notes, but perseverance is difficult.
“Because so many have left, there’s just not the encouragement that there was before 2003,” says the spokesman. He hopes to visit VOM Canada’s connections soon for a time of theological training, fellowship, and encouragement.
There are a few things you can do to help right now. First, you can find out why persecution is an issue and why the Persecuted Church needs your support.
Then, you could choose someone to pray for daily. Musselman suggests “Pastor Joseph in Baghdad, or the brothers we know up in Erbil and Kurdistan that are…reaching Kurdish people for the Gospel.
“When we actually find the names–maybe we see the faces, it causes a greater connection.”