The threat of violence looms over believers in Iraq


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Muslim extremists are warning Christians in Iraq to leave the country immediately or risk violent death. The threat mentions believers in Baghdad and Mosul--already troubled areas, reports MNN.

Voice of the Martyrs reports that an Iraqi bishop received a letter from the General Secretariat of the Islam Supporters warning Christians in Baghdad and other areas to "leave the country of Muslims (Iraq) for good and immediately in the form of mass transmigration." It continues: "You can follow Pope Benedict XVI and his followers who have disfigured humanity and Islam," the letter said. "There's no more room for you, infidels, among the Iraqi Muslims. Our swords shall be placed upon your necks and the necks of your followers and other Christians residing in Mosul."

Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors USA confirms the hostility against followers of Christ. "Christians are just being further marginalized, as we've heard the reports of random violence. It comes down to this: Christians there are being targeted because of their faith in Jesus Christ."

Sunni Muslim insurgents have frequently targeted members of Iraq's Christian minority. Iraq's current government is Shiite-led. As a result, Christians have found that they are in the crossfire. Many thousands have already fled to neighboring countries.

Christians make up roughly 3.3 percent of Iraq's people. It's estimated that the remnant church is well below the 500,000 believers who were in Iraq before the Iraq war.

Still, Christians in Iraq remain strong in their faith. Dykstra says "the Gospel is going forward, and people are coming to Christ. People have to meet more in secret, but the good thing is that when they meet in secret, they're praising the Lord and lifting up their needs."

Pray for ministry opportunities for churches and Christian relief organizations working in Iraq.

Teams have to work carefully. Dykstra says even though the church is isolated, "Fortunately, Open Doors has put programs in place in literacy training and praying with them that will help Christians."

Iraq is 17th on the Open Doors World Watch List of top 50 countries known for their persecution of Christians.