If the Tiber rises too high, or the Nile too low, the remedy is always feeding Christians to the lions. ― Tertullian (c. 160-220 A.D., a notable early Christian apologist and a polemicist against heresy)
PRAYER: (from Psalm 69:13-18)
“O God, answer me with your sure salvation. Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters. Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me…answer me quickly, for I am in trouble. Come near and rescue me, deliver me because of my foes; AMEN.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9)
PRAYER FOCUS: The Church in Iraq
The prophet Jeremiah (Aramaya) is honored by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike. Jeremiah lived in Judah during the 6th Century B.C., just prior to the Babylonian Exile. He is known as “the Weeping Prophet” due to his propensity for tears as he exhorted people to turn back to God before it was too late. If Jeremiah was distressed or depressed, it might have been because the world as he knew it was collapsing around him. The mighty Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in 586 B.C., and most of the Hebrew nation was carried off in exile to Babylon, in what is now Iraq.
Iraq has been the focus of a great deal of church history. The Garden of Eden was somewhere between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. Abraham was from Ur, in southern Iraq. Nineveh, where the prophet Jonah reluctantly preached after being swallowed by the great fish, was a sprawling trading complex in the vicinity of modern Kirkuk, Irbil, and Mosul. In fact, if Christianity has a single point of concentration in Iraq, it is Nineveh. Saint Thomas brought the message of the risen Jesus during the first century A.D., and the Assyrian Church has survived there until the present day.
It is here that we draw our Prayer Focus this week. Almost everyone will know of the deterioration of law and order in Iraq, and the growing threat from terrorists. However the world’s news media have once again ignored the dire and deadly consequences to Christians in the region. The Monday Prayer has previously introduced our good friend Canon Andrew White, “the Vicar of Baghdad.” We repeat and endorse his appeal for prayer and for assistance during these desperate times…
Things are bad now in Iraq, the worst they have ever been. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a group that does not even see Al Qaida as extreme enough, has totally taken control of Mosul, which is Nineveh, the main Christian stronghold. They have destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. Many military resources have been captured. Tanks, armoured vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS.
Now the Christian centre of Iraq has been totally ransacked. The tanks are moving into the Christian villages destroying them and causing total carnage. ISIS militants are now moving towards Kirkuk, and the major Oil fields that provide the lifeblood of Iraq. We are faced with total war.
People have fled in their hundreds of thousands to Iraqi Kurdistan for safety. The Kurds have had to close the border, preventing further entry of the masses. The humanitarian crisis is so huge it is almost impossible to comprehend what is really happening.
The terrible fact is that ISIS terrorists are in the control now of Fallujah in the South, and Mosul in the North. Here we are with this huge crisis and need and we do not even have the resources to help those most in need.
The need is great. Will you please help us?
With much love and grace,
UPDATE: 14 June 2014, Saturday
Things have moved from terrible to desperate in much of Iraq. Despite hundreds of terrorists being killed, the march towards Baghdad by the ISIL has continued.
Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq’s supreme religious leader, has called on all Iraqi people to take up arms against the Al Qaeda terrorists. He is the most listened-to person in Iraq.
Meanwhile the terrorist mob gets closer. Baghdad is now closing down in fear. The US Embassy is evacuating. The British embassy has cancelled all business.
I am writing from the British island of Jersey, where I am trying to raise funds for relief.
Thank you so much for those of you who have helped us financially. Most of all thank you for your prayers of intercession during this desperate crisis.
Blessings and Peace,
In this week’s Lectionary reading in Jeremiah 20:10, the prophet writes of a time when God’s people were in grave danger from powerful forces. They would be expected to reject God in order to save their own lives. “For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble”. Many people were killed. Many people fell away.
Yet in Jeremiah 20:13, Jeremiah closes in words of praise to the God who rescues, the God who delivers. “Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For He has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers”. Jeremiah could well be writing of our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq today. He could well be writing of us.
It’s Monday Morning. Thank God that you are safe from fear and terror. Please pray for Iraq, for peace in Iraq, and for safe deliverance of the persecuted church throughout the world.