March 17th, 2008 12:58 EST
Iraqi Christians Still Suffering Five Years After Start of War
Thursday is the fifth anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Initially, the minority Christian population in Iraq was mostly elated with the fall of Saddam Hussein. They envisioned the coming of peace, safe places to work and live and complete freedom to worship.
But that has not happened. Five years later Christians are caught in the crossfire of violence - and even targeted - more than ever before.
Although it is difficult to state how many Iraqi Christians are in the country, the number in 2003, prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein, was around 550,000. The violence lately has caused many Iraqi people, both Muslim and Christian, to leave the country. Church leaders in Iraq conservatively estimate that almost 75,000 Christians live outside Iraq, in Syria, in Jordan or in the West and that another 75,000 have fled to northern Iraq. That means less than 400,000 Christians remain in mainland Iraq. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that at least 2 million Iraqis have fled the country since 2003 and another 2 million are displaced inside the country.
Some say that in the past few years almost 500 Iraqi Christians, including pastors and priests, have been murdered because of their faith. Even more Christians have been killed in attacks, in fighting or kidnappings for money.
Just last week, the body of a Chaldean Catholic archbishop kidnapped in Iraq in February was found outside the northern city of Mosul. Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was seized by gunmen in Mosul soon after he left Mass on Feb. 29. Three of his companions were killed, the latest in what church members called a series of attacks against Iraq's dwindling Christian community.
Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA, says, "the marginalized people of Iraq desperately need our prayers. The situation continues to grow grimmer for the targeted minority Christian community in Iraq. Pray that 2008 will be the year when the violence will decrease and Christians will not be killed and kidnapped simply for their belief in Christ."
Open Doors is one of the major providers of Bibles and Christian materials in Iraq in and is also working with displaced Christians in northern Iraq, Syria and Jordan with housing, food, clothing and water.
An estimated 200 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with another 200 to 400 million facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our Website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
For more information or to set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email firstname.lastname@example.org