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December 5, 2011

Christians in the Middle East

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

In church, we’ve regularly prayed for the small Christian population through the Middle East. Though not Lutherans, the Christian Church throughout the region is facing a great number of challenges, mostly from Islamic militants who want to eradicate the faith from the region.

This morning, the Wall Street Journal reports on the troubles that Christians are facing. Yes, you need a subscription to read the entire article, but the central focus is on the hardships that Christians are faced with everyday from Islamists who are bent on destroying the church.

From the opening paragraphs of the article:

The plight of Iraqi Christians since the fall of Saddam Hussein has been agonizingly personal for Aram Butrus Matti.

Hanging on the wall in his parents’ home here in northern Iraq are photographs of his cousin Yonan, his cousin’s spouse and their three-month-old son, who were among some 50 worshippers killed by suicide bombers in a Baghdad church in October 2010.

There also is a photo of his older brother, Noel, a pharmacist. Six years ago, Aram and Noel were kidnapped together in the nearby city of Mosul. Noel, then 44, was murdered. Aram was released only after his parents paid a ransom.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Matti, now 27, fled Mosul with the rest of his family to their ancestral village. Bartella is now ringed with trenches, earthen berms and checkpoints manned by local security forces to ward off attacks.

Mr. Matti is eager to leave Iraq for good.

With the Arab Spring now bringing political turbulence to many other countries in the region, Christians throughout the Middle East are worried that what happened in Iraq may be a harbinger of misfortune to come in their own communities. While many remain supporters of the uprisings, others fear that the toppling of their autocratic rulers could uncork sectarian violence against Christians and other minority groups in their own nations.

As Lutherans, we need to continue to pray to our Lord to strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the Middle East who face incredible hardships just because they confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

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