Iraq: Christians Marginalised and Vulnerable; also LRA Update

General February 4, 2009


Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 515 | Wed 04 Feb 2009

Provincial council elections were held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces on Saturday 31 January. Because Iraqi politics is totally tribal the stakes are high and Christians, as a small minority, are inevitably marginalised. For various reasons the elections were generally peaceful. Also no voting was held in the still ethnically mixed, highly contested and volatile northern provinces of Dahuk, Arbil, Sulaymaniyah or Kirkuk.

Tensions are high in the northern Nineveh Province where a massive ethnic power-shift is about to take place. It has been the centre of the Assyrian homeland for several millennia and is where most of Iraq's remaining Christians live. However, for the past few centuries it has also been Kurdish 'frontier' territory. When the Sunni Arabs boycotted the 2005 vote, they opened the door for Kurds to extend their control into Arab-majority areas -- lands Arabised by Saddam Hussein to ensure Arab majorities in oil-rich areas. Oil- rich Mosul (Nineveh's capital) subsequently became a front-line in the Sunni Arab insurgency. After the US-led surge in central Iraq drove militants north, Mosul also became al Qaeda's new Iraq base in its jihad for the imposition of fundamentalist Islam.

Arab nationalists, rumoured to have ties to both Baathists and al Qaeda, campaigned on a platform of rolling back Kurdish expansion.
They are now set to take power in Nineveh from incumbent Kurdish nationalists who campaigned on a platform of Kurdish consolidation, de-Arabisation and autonomy. Assyrian Christians, who for centuries have suffered intensive persecution and numerous massacres at the hands of both Arabs and Kurds, were reportedly threatened and intimidated for their vote. The power shift could create an explosive situation. Iraq's Christians are once again going to be stuck in the middle and torn between warring and vengeful ethnic nationalists, to the delight of al Qaeda which will doubtless use any ethnic conflict as a cover for its Islamic jihad.

The catastrophe that has befallen Iraq's indigenous Christian peoples is virtually never mentioned in news reporting as it would conflict with the 'success' propaganda. The tragic plight of Iraqi Christians is so profoundly ignored you could be forgiven for thinking they are invisible or non-existent! This terrorised, traumatised, largely displaced remnant -- less than half of Iraq's pre-war Christian population -- is facing genocide and a return to crippling, dehumanising, brutal dhimmitude (see http://www.dhimmitude.org/).

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR: 

* God's Holy Spirit to sanctify the Iraqi Church, increasing
  prayerfulness, faith, brotherly love and solidarity across ethnic
  and denominational lines; may assurance of God's perfect love,
  eternal presence and absolute faithfulness bring hope and comfort
  to the Church in trying times.

* our Mighty God -- 'el gibbor' (Isaiah 9:6) -- our strong,
  warrior God, to intervene with his heavenly forces to frustrate
  his enemies (mortal and spiritual) and protect and preserve his
  Church -- his light in Iraq, a land of promise.

For God has promised: 'I will record Rahab [Egypt] and Babylon among those who acknowledge me . . . and will say, "This one was born in Zion."' Psalm 87:4 NIV

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE       
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IRAQI CHRISTIANS MARGINALISED AND VULNERABLE

Christians in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh are awaiting the results of 31 January's provincial council elections. Nineveh, where most of Iraq's remaining Christians live, is majority Arab but ruled mostly by Kurds due to the Sunni Arabs having boycotted the 2005 elections. Now, however, the Arab majority has struck back through the ballot box and is set to wrest power from the incumbent Kurds. The Christians are marginalised and vulnerable in the midst of these warring and vengeful ethnic nationalists. The Christians' appalling plight is almost never reported, as if they do not even exist. But there is this remnant, threatened by Kurd vs Arab ethnic conflict and the al Qaeda-led jihad for the imposition of fundamentalist Islam. As tensions rise in Nineveh, please pray for God to protect and preserve his people.

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UPDATE ON THE LORD'S RESISTANCE ARMY (LRA)

On Friday 30 January, the Ugandan Army (UPDF) attacked an LRA camp in north-east Congo. To avoid civilian casualties, the UPDF hit the camp only indirectly, scattering the rebels into the bush. A senior LRA commander, Major Okore Okello, was killed and 90 Congolese captives -- all women and children -- were rescued. Brig. Kankiriho reports: 'The abductees were tied to each other on ropes like the old slave traders used to do.' This is the first rescue of abducted civilians since Operation Lightning Thunder started on 14 December.
The International Organisation for Immigration (IOI) reports additionally that LRA deputy commander Okot Odhiambo has requested safe passage to surrender. Okot Odhiambo replaced former deputy Vincent Otti who was assassinated in 2007 on Kony's orders after a rift. Rumours have it that Okot has defected and is seeking protection after having likewise fallen out with Kony. He has told the IOI that if they can get him out he will bring 45 rebels and 10 abductees with him.

After two weeks of prayer focus on this issue there has already been a turn around in momentum. Praise God! Please continue to pray for defections, rescues and an end to Joseph Kony's blasphemy, terror and spiritual (demonic/occultic) power.  (1 Peter 3:22 ESV)


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Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.