Iraq’s Christians: The Final Squeeze?
With all the election hoopla in the United States this week, little media attention is being given to the al-Qaeda inspired massacre against Iraqi Christians. Did you know this was the worst targeted attack against them since the start of the Iraq war in 2003? At least 58 people were killed, 41 of them were Christian. 80 people were injured.
CBN News has learned from our sources that the targeted church--Our Lady of Salvation Church is deeply engaged in a youth outreach ministry and church members have often volunteered to distribute Bibles. Among those killed in the attack was Rev. Waseem Sabeh, a young, popular priest who was actively involved in demonstrating the love of Christ in Baghdad.
But perhaps one of the most disturbing details of this massacre came from our friends at the Voice of the Martyrs. One of their country contacts reports that a rescued hostage in the church looked on in horror as one of the Islamic terrorists forced a gun into the mouth of a three-year-old boy and pulled the trigger.
It's apparent this bloody massacre of children, women and priests was another attempt by Islamists to purge their nation of "infidels" by frightening Christians into leaving Iraq. But Christians are more Iraqi (as Open Doors President Carl Moeller points out) than Muslims; the arrival of Christianity in the country preceded Islam by more than 600 years--St. Thomas brought the gospel to the people of Mesopotamia about 33 A.D. The early church was based in the modern day Kurdish city of Irbil.
Nearly 2,000 years later, Iraqi Christians are being squeezed by threat of extinction. Several decades ago their numbers exceeded 1 million, but today only about 450,000 remain.
Despite the persecution they face, many bold believers are determined to stay so the Christian presence in their country may continue. They're Iraqis like Rev. Meyassr al-Qasboutros who was quoted by The New York Times as saying, "We must die here... we can't leave this country."
I too, have met many determined Iraqi Christians like that martyred priest. They have a Godly vision for Iraq--one that allows a free and growing Christian population to prosper.
To gain insight about some additional reasons for the Baghdad church massacre, read this article by Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
And click on the video below to view our CBN News interview (via Skype) with Carl Moeller of Open Doors USA who talks about the American Christian response.