The few Christians still living in Baghdad have found themselves at the receiving end of a barrage of intimidation.
According to the London-based online news Al-Araby al-Jadeed, on Sunday 13th December, posters appeared near Christian places of worship with a message to Christian women to cover up.
The Qatari-owned media reported that the messages were the work of the government-sanctioned “People’s Mobilisation” Shiite militias.
Posters of a veiled Virgin Mary appeared around the mainly Shia neighbourhoods of Karada, Kadhimiya, Zayouna and Ghadir – areas where Christians still form a noticeable minority.
Their version of the Madonna’s iconic picture, however, included an extra wrapping of cloth to cover from the chin down, in line with the Shia dress code.
Addressed to “honourable Christian” women, they said “The Virgin Mary was veiled, for such has been the way of the prophets” and included a call to “pause and think deeply … You have to follow the Virgin’s example, so why don’t you wear the hijab?”
Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, or the ‘People’s Mobilisation’, is a paramilitary umbrella organistion, under which various religious Shiite factions operate. The Hashd (‘mobilisation’) was formed by the Iraqi government in June 2014 as a counter-jihad to defend Baghdad, following the fall of Mosul to the Sunni jihadist “Islamic State,” or IS.
Quoting eyewitnesses, Al-Araby al Jadeed claimed Shiite clerics were behind the offensive, which Christians have, not surprisingly, found to lack ‘charm’.
“When you find those posters put up by militiamen right at your doorstep and next to your place of worship, it only means one thing: ‘You’d better obey, or else!’” said Hanna Sliwah, a 47-year-old Iraqi Christian.
Silwah pointed out that similar messages were displayed around Baghdad government offices.
“Apparently, we have no place here, either” she said.
- Pray for Christians in Iraq, many of whom have already fled from ISIL held territories within Iraq to the relative safety of Shia areas. Pray for peace in their hearts, and for protection over their homes and families.
- Pray that Christians will not lose heart, but remain strong in their faith.
- Pray that, through their witness, many in the Shia areas will come to know Christ and His truth and grace.
- Pray for peace in Iraq, and that the Prince Of Peace will reign in this land once again.
Psalm 36 vs 7: “‘How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”