Iraq and Gaza: Facing Al Qaeda

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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.


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.


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.


* 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.




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.