Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 428 | Wed 09 May 2007
The remnant Christians of Iraq and Gaza have survived war and civil strife but they may not survive al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is not interested in nationalism: its goal is total religious cleansing and complete Islamisation.
IRAQ: AL QAEDA PURGING BAGHDAD
In Dora, the ancient Christian quarter of Baghdad, churches have been ordered to remove their crosses or be burned. Over recent months most churches have done so but St John the Baptist Chaldean Church and the Church of St George were resistant so militants climbed up and ripped off the crosses themselves. A fatwa has been issued forbidding Christians to wear the cross or make any religious gesture. On the weekend of 18 April, militants issued an ultimatum to the Christian residents of the Mualimien neighbourhood, Dora district: after 24 hours they would have to convert to Islam or die. Six Christian families fled and are being cared for in a church elsewhere. Whilst they were allowed to flee they were not permitted to take any of their belongings.
GAZA: AL QAEDA PURGING GAZA
Security specialists warned years ago that al Qaeda had infiltrated Gaza. Though denied by Arafat there is little doubt about it now. In August 2005 al Qaeda exploited the security vacuum created by the Israeli Defence Force's disengagement and withdrawal from Gaza, increasing its presence with men and arms. In early March 2007 Islamist Hamas entered into a government of national unity with Fatah and agreed to 'respect' international agreements. Al Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri responded by slamming Hamas, accusing it of falling 'into the swamp of surrender' by abandoning its ideology and 'selling out' to Israel and the US for the sake of securing seats in government. Since then, al Qaeda-linked Wahhabist jihadis have dramatically escalated their effort in purging and Islamising Gaza. They have assassinated three Hamas leaders and are targeting everything they deem 'un-Islamic'.
On the night of 15 April Gaza's only Christian bookshop was bombed (see RLP 425). On Saturday night 21 April the American International School was bombed. On Sunday 6 May the UN- administered Omariya School in Rafah was attacked in broad daylight by some 70 white-robed Wahhabi militants from a group calling itself 'Salafiyeen'. They tried to prevent the school's sports carnival, deeming it 'un-Islamic'. When security forces challenged them the militants responded with grenades and machine guns, killing one and wounding six. The group had previously warned the school about its 'un-Islamic' activities such as teaching boys and girls together and permitting music and dance, as well as the involvement of UNRWA director John Ging, a 'Christian' and 'anti- Islam infidel'.
Furthermore Islamic militants in Gaza have resumed firing Qassam rockets into Israel. On Sunday 6 May two Israelis were wounded when an upgraded Quds rocket, fired by the al-Quds Brigades (the Islamic Jihad's armed wing), hit a service station in western Negev. Because it is militarily weak, the Islamic strategy - virtually everywhere, every time - is to use terrorism to provoke a response, cry 'genocidal aggression' when the response comes, and then call for intervention on 'humanitarian' grounds. Meanwhile Hamas Al-Aqsa TV has been airing a program where a Mickey Mouse look-alike encourages young Arab children to become child soldiers and martyrs for Islam and for Allah. Pray for our Christian brethren in Gaza.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT
* God our Father, who watches over all his children and hears their cry, will work miracles to protect them; covering them so they are not seen, expediting their escape from danger and providing their material, emotional and spiritual needs, especially refuge.
* the Holy Spirit, who indwells each believer, will speak comfort and assurance into their hearts, enabling them to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus.
'Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despised the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.' (Hebrews 12:1,2 ESV)
* God will redeem the suffering of these believers so that their faith might be strengthened through these times of trauma, terror, flight or death, which God will even use to lead others to the foot of the powerful Cross of Christ.
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE **********************************************************
AL QAEDA IN IRAQ AND GAZA
The remnant Christians in Iraq and Gaza who have survived war and civil strife may not survive al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has infiltrated both Iraq and Gaza and is specifically targeting everything 'un- Islamic'. In the midst of massive insecurity, Christians are very vulnerable. Churches in Dora district (Baghdad's Christian quarter) have been forced to remove crosses and Christians are being driven out. In Gaza militants are targeting everything they deem un- Islamic and the attacks are escalating dramatically. The existence of Christians is tenuous in these lands which have had a Christian presence for 2000 years. Please pray for wisdom and courage, for supernatural protection, for nations to open up refugee places for them, and for peace.
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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray specifically and regularly for religious liberty issues, and in particular to uphold the Church where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC. Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.
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