Dear Friends and Partners,
Once again, as we in the West celebrate the birth of Christ and look forward to a new year, blessed to share the warmth and joy of the season with friends and family in peace and security, our brothers and sisters around the world are under attack and need our support.
The period between December 23rd and January 7th (Christmas Day in the Orthodox Christian calendar) is a particularly difficult time for Christians in many countries as religious extremists target holiday celebrations to maximize the symbolic effect of their message. Last year, Christians in at least 18 countries were targeted and this year’s violence has only just begun with attacks having already taken place in Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan, and Iraq.
The deadliest attacks so far have taken place in Iraq, with reports of at least 38 people killed in two separate bomb attacks targeting the Christian community in Baghdad on Christmas Day. A car bomb exploded outside St. John’s Catholic Church in the Dora district of Baghdad while worshippers were leaving the Christmas Day service, leaving at least 27 people dead and wounding at least 40 more. Earlier in the morning, another bomb detonated in an outdoor market in the Christian section of Athorien killed at least 11 people and left 21 wounded.
These attacks in Baghdad are only the latest bloody chapter in a violent campaign aimed at Christians in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. As we have shared with you in previous reports, Iraq’s once-thriving Christian community has been decimated over the past decade by the general violence and especially by targeted attacks. Even areas like northern Iraq that have traditionally been safe for Christians no longer provide safe haven. Of the estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million pre-invasion Christian population, it is estimated that only about 400,000 to 500,000 Christians remain in Iraq.
Western leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have already condemned the attacks. In a statement calling the attack on worshippers “an abomination”, he said that Canada “expect[s] the perpetrators to be apprehended and punished to the full extent of the law” and that “Canada believes that people of all faiths should have the right to practise their faith in peace, security and harmony.” The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has also spoken out against “the deliberate and senseless targeting” of innocent Iraqis saying, “The United States abhors all such attacks and is committed to its partnership with the Government of Iraq to combat the scourge of terrorism.”
We welcome these swift responses by our leaders; however, while public statements such as these are vital, they are not enough. They must be backed up by consistent pressure on the Iraqi government to take action against Islamic extremists. It is critical that we make our voices heard by calling on our political leaders to continue to demand that the Iraqi government protect Christians and other minorities even after these stories fade from the headlines.
As we close out this holiday season, we must not forget that our brothers and sisters around the world are not blessed with the peace and security we enjoy. We must not stand by as Christians are massacred simply because of their faith and religious practices. Iraqi Christians desperately need our support and OFWI is working to provide medical and humanitarian aid to the wounded through our contacts in the region. Please take a few moments from your day to join us in seeking justice and peace for our brothers and sisters. Your prayers, letters, and financial support are vitally important to reach the victims of these attacks with your comfort and encouragement.
- For courage, faith, and strength for the Christians in Iraq during this time of deep trial. Pray that they would be encouraged and strengthened to stay true to their faith, in order that they might be a shining beacon of truth and the love of Christ both in a country desperately looking for light and throughout the whole world;
- For peace and healing in the country of Iraq. Pray that the violence would come to an end, and that Christians would be able to live and worship in peace and security without fear of attack;
- That those carrying out these attacks would come to realize the wrongfulness of their acts and seek the love and forgiveness of God and in turn apply their energies toward spreading peace rather than violence;
- For the Iraqi people as a whole, that they would be united and find true peace and meaning in the Prince of Peace.
The Bible teaches that faith without action is dead, so please take action urgently and write (contact details are included below):
- To the Iraqi ambassador to your country demanding that the Iraqi government take immediate and meaningful action to ensure the security of Christian communities, to bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice, and to control the extremist groups responsible;
- To your Foreign Minister or Secretary of State, thanking them for the responses to the attacks and insisting that they continue, through consistent attention to these issues and pressure both on the diplomatic front and through trade and aid policy, to hold the Iraqi government accountable for the protection of its citizens from Islamic extremism.
Please remember to send us a copy of your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember that the persecuted Christians are dying every day, but they are still smiling. They are in a very deep dark night, but they have the candle of the Lord. The enemy can have a very strong weapon and a very strong army, but we have the Lord Almighty.
"They can kill the dreamer, but they cannot kill the dream" in the Lord’s name.
Be with God and may God be with you.
Rev. Majed El Shafie President and Founder One Free World International El Shafie Ministries
His Excellency Dr. Abdulrahman Hamid Al-Hussaini Ambassador Embassy of the Republic of Iraq 215 McLeod Street Ottawa, ON K2P 0Z8 Tel: (613) 236-9177 ext. 2; Fax: (613) 236-9641 E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Honourable John Baird Minister for Foreign Affairs Foreign Affairs Canada 125 Sussex Drive Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2 Tel: (613) 996-0984; Fax: (613) 996-9880 Email: email@example.com
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada Office of the Prime Minister 80 Wellington St Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2 Tel: (613) 992-4211; Fax: (613) 941-6900 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the United States
His Excellency Lukman Faily Embassy of the Republic of Iraq 3421 Massachusetts Ave. NW Washington, DC 20007 Tel: (202) 742-1600 Fax: (202) 333-1129 Webform: http://www.iraqiembassy.us/webform/feedback
Secretary John Kerry U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520 Tel: (202) 647-4000 (Main switchboard) Webform: http://contact-us.state.gov/cgi-bin/state.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php?p_sid=F5OZZa6i&p_lva=&p_sp=&p_li
President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, DC 20500 Tel: (202) 456-1414 (Main switchboard) Webform: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact