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Where are the other nine

Every day Iraq is in the news, but sadly we hear little about the horrendous plight of the small number of Christians who still remain in that country. In a hearing convened by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Canon Andrew White, Vicar of St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, and four other panellists recently unfolded tales of horrors overtaking Christians and other minority religious groups there.

“The situation is more than desperate”, said Mr. White, who described how Christians in Baghdad have been told to convert to Islam or be killed. Hundreds of those who could not afford to flee the country are living in churches without adequate food or water, he said. “In the past month, 36 members of my own congregation have been kidnapped”, he said. “To date, only one has been returned”.

Michael Youash, director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, called the situation “soft ethnic cleansing”. The “de-Christianization of Iraq” is not far off, he predicted, saying that America and Britain have done little to help Iraqi Christians, whose common faith with the “Christian” West has made them loathed by Muslim radicals.

The plight of Christians in Iraq is just one example of the plight of about 200 million Christians around the world who, especially in countries which are predominantly Muslim, are suffering significant discrimination and persecution. One in ten Christians suffer persecution. What about the other nine?

This of course includes us, who have religious liberty, though there are increasingly, examples of discrimination against those who are faithful to Christ, even here. But our task must be to support in whatever way we can our brothers and sisters in Christ who do not have the freedoms that we have.

For a number of years Carol and I have supported two organisations, both of which are dedicated to assisting persecuted Christians in all parts of the world. One is Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The other is Barnabas Fund. Both organisations offer practical and financial support to groups of Christians in places such as Iraq, Burma, Indonesia, Pakistan, North Africa, Northern Nigeria and many other countries around the world. They undertake advocacy, both to make the situations in these countries more generally known and to lobby governments both here and abroad. And of course they encourage regular prayer.

It may be that there are those of you in the churches who, like us, are regular supporters of one or the other of these organisations. If you are it would be good if you would make yourself known. If you are not already a supporter, but feel that you would like to find out more and perhaps set up a support group here in Marple, please could you also speak to Carol or myself. We have much more information that we can share with you, and look forward to hearing from you.

Michael Sparrow
 
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