Northern Iraq has long been considered a relatively safe area for Christians fleeing Baghdad and Southern Iraq due to extreme persecution. However, on Friday, June 6, militant extremists flooded the north and took control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.
Several reports identify the extremists as hardliners with death being the answer for those who do not fully support them. Although some 500,000 have fled the city, the bodies of hundreds of Christians as well as certain Muslims (those who do not believe in strict Shariah law) were said to litter the streets of Mosul.
According to a report by World magazine, Pastor Haitham Jazrawi, a former university professor and now evangelical pastor in northern Iraq, has said that as of June 10, 99 percent of all Christians have fled Mosul.
This evacuation of the city by Christians, to many religious leaders, is of significant concern. They fear the longer the occupation of Mosul by militants continues, the less likelihood there is of Christians returning to the city.
AG World Missions Communications Director Randy Hurst has been in touch with AG leaders in the Middle East and Iraq.
"Today I received a copy of a prayer that an AG pastor in Baghdad sent to his congregation this week to help guide them in their prayers during this time of crisis," Hurst says. "The prayer touched me deeply. It communicates so wonderfully the commitment and love this pastor has for the people of Iraq and the work God has called him to do.
"The prayer reads, in part, 'Thank You for Iraq, our country that You have placed us in. Lift up our eyes from all the events around us and direct our eyes to You. Let us see Your glory and greatness so that we won't shake because of the storm. Lord, You have put us in this country to pray for it, not to run away and leave it.'
"Understanding the incredible pressures and constant threats the church faces on a daily basis, a prayer like this leaves little doubt that the Christians remaining in Iraq are men and women who have fully entrusted their lives to Christ. It is our honor to pray for these heroes of the faith," Hurst adds.
AG World Missions has also posted a release concerning the attack on Mosul, which includes a prayer list. To read the story and prayer list, see s2.ag.org/agwmmosul.