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Worker: ‘Jihadists’ target freedom in Iraq, not just Christians

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Extremists who bombed five churches in Iraq Aug. 1 targeted the congregations as symbols of a free Iraq and not specifically because they are Christian, a Southern Baptist worker with a heart for the Iraqi people said.

The violence in Iraq is the work of a rag-tag alliance composed of Islamic extremists, members of the deposed dictator’s Baath Party, criminals freed by Saddam Hussein just before the fall of Baghdad and unemployed former members of the Iraqi army and security forces, said the worker, who asked that his name be withheld for security reasons.

The “jihadists” (extremist Muslim “holy warriors”) involved in that alliance want to provoke a civil war in Iraq, creating chaos that would give them an opportunity to take control, he said.

“Jihadists see the present situation as an opportunity to assert universal control over Iraq, something they could never have dreamed of achieving under Saddam Hussein,” the worker said. “They are killing without religious regard any and all who stand in their way of achieving this rare opportunity.

“The battle being waged is over the freedom of ideas and the freedom to question leaders,” he added. “This group is opposed to every form of authority and religion but their own narrow band of Islamic belief.”

The recent creation of an Iraqi government and steps being taken toward democracy have raised the stakes for factions who want to control the country and its vast oil wealth, the worker said.

“The jihadists are drawn from many nations and from different sects of Islam. They are temporarily united against anyone who opposes their radical Islamic-republic views,” he said. “Members of the Christian minority are being included in the anarchists’ attack against an emerging pluralistic society.”

Eleven people were killed and dozens injured in Baghdad and Mosul when car bombs exploded outside churches of Iraq’s historic Christian communities, which date all the way back to the first century A.D. — predating Islam’s conquest of Iraq six centuries later.

Two prominent Muslim leaders in Iraq quickly joined Christian and political leaders in condemning the attacks. Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, said the bombings were “hideous crimes” that “targeted Iraq’s unity, stability and independence.” Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr told Al-Jazeera television the assaults were “a cowardly act.”

Continuing instability in Iraq hinders economic and social progress, which in turn makes ordinary Iraqis reluctant to oppose extremists who they fear could become Iraq’s new dictators, the worker said.

“Much of what needs to happen in Iraqi economic and social development is waiting for a more secure environment,” he said. “The day when Iraqis rise up against those who do these acts will be moved forward if the government and their allies succeed in these efforts. In turn, that day will result in movement on other vital fronts.”

Christians everywhere must pray for Iraq during these critical days, the worker said.

“The Scripture reminds us to pray for governments and leaders,” he said. “These are dangerous days for those who would lead Iraqis out of the current darkness into freedom to think for themselves and choose their own rulers.

“All the current leaders are under death threat. They face the difficult task of separating the leaders of the insurgency from common Iraqis who have been employed in the uprising as a way to feed their families.

“Pray for bands of angels to protect [Iraqi leaders] and for the Spirit of God to give them peace, both for their work and by surrendering to the one who said, ‘Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,'” he said.

Iraq’s families also need concerted prayer support, he said.

“Iraq’s families have suffered during these days. Many have lost family members in recent months. Thousands have been wounded.

“Pray for their physical, emotional and spiritual healing. Pray also that the glorious light of Jesus Christ would dawn upon them in this dark hour.

“To that end, also pray for a small but strategically placed band of Christ’s followers who are seeking to share Jesus within this setting.”

    About the Author

  • Mark Kelly