Iraqi Christians have requested urgent prayer as the situation deteriorates virtually to the point of all-out civil war.
Sunni militants, many aligned with the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda off-shoot group, began their violent take-over on Friday 6th June. ISIS has full control of the northern cities of Mosul and Tikrit and has this morning seized Saadiyah and Jalawla in the eastern province of Diyala. Meanwhile, Kurdish forces, who are seen as a bulwark against the Sunni Muslim insurgents, say they have taken control of Kirkuk.
A spokesman for the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, told Sky News that she is ‘extremely concerned’ by summary executions, extrajudicial killings and the displacement of more than 500,000 people. By Wednesday 11, half a million residents from the Mosul region had fled from the violence, many attempting to find refuge in the nearby Kurdish provinces of Northern Iraq. Huge numbers of people have been displaced in other areas.
Pray: that Christians of Mosul, Kirkuk, Bagdad and surrounding areas will know the presence of Jesus, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the protection of the Father.
Pray: that humanitarian assistance would reach all who are in need, whether displaced or remaining in situ.
At the time of compiling this bulletin, Sunni insurgents have vowed to march on to Baghdad. The Iraqi Parliament has delayed voting on a request to grant the PM emergency powers due to it failing to reach the necessary quorum. Government forces have reportedly launched air strikes against positions held by militants in Tikrit and Mosul. The US says it is considering further assistance to Iraq, without giving details.
Pray: for the government and military to be united and strong in dealing with this invasion and not to be intimidated.
Pray: that they will be able to re-take the cities in the north and western parts of the country that have been overrun.
Hundreds of Christian families are among those fleeing the area, and at least one Assyrian church in Mosul has been burned down in the recent violence. Christians feel particularly vulnerable, especially in the light of the treatment of Christians in the Raqqah province of northern Syria. (In February, ISIS established its authority in Raqqah. Christian community leaders were forced to sign a contract agreeing pay a special tax (known as jizya). They were only allowed to have Christian meetings behind closed doors so as to be neither visible nor audible to Muslims, and Christians were to adhere to Islamic commercial, dress code and dietary regulations.)
Pray: that those who have chosen to remain in the cities would not be subjected to violent or unjust treatment.
Pray: that Christians will not be discouraged and will continue to unite in authoritative prayer for their nation.
Pray: that Christians throughout Iraq will know the peace and presence of Jesus each day, and will remain faithful to him and clear in their testimony.
Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh plain is the traditional heartland of Iraq’s Christian communities. Many Christians fled to this region when forced to leave Baghdad and other areas in recent years. Christians are alarmed at the ISIS take-over bid for Iraq and fearful that this will further accelerate the decline of the Christian presence in Iraq.
Pray: that God will bring about His purposes for this nation and the surrounding areas.
Pray: that those who are perpetuating the conflict will know the Spirit’s conviction of sin and come to understand the depth of Jesus’ forgiveness.
A pastor from Iraq sent the following:
‘The terrorists have captured many towns, killing and destroying many buildings, burning anything they come across. The internet connection is very slow and sometimes disconnected. Huge numbers of families have already left their residences heading for nowhere. There is a huge need for food, blankets, shelters, medication, care for elders and children. There is a lack of everything. At least a couple of million people are homeless in an extremely hot season topping 122 F. Many have fasted and prayed all day Wednesday for the intervention of the Lord to stop this unrest.’
Pray: for the millions of refugees that need shelter, food, and water; for a swift and well-co-ordinated response from the government, international community and humanitarian organisations.