Outreach Efforts in Iraq See Hope Despite Violence and Uncertainty

Attacks against Christians in Iraq have continued following the hand-over of the war-torn country from the US-led occupation to the Iraqi interim government, according to Church leaders in Iraq. Yet despite the violence, several Christian organisations are reporting continued development in the mission fields and growth in the Iraqi churches.

Vernon Brewer, president of World Help, recently reported the presence of a large demand for Bibles in Iraq despite the continuing threat of violence. Brewer recently met with a ministry worker in Cairo, Egypt, who oversees the "Bibles for Iraq" project. "He told me that their convoy had been fired upon by terrorists," Brewer said. "Thankfully, they were not hit."

World Help, a Christian organisation that serves the unreached areas of the world, is networking with 72 churches in Iraq and building a training center in downtown Baghdad to teach pastors and church planters.

"We're distributing hundreds of thousands of Bibles," he adds. "God's moving there, and it's incredible what He's doing. I've learned that the Iraqi people love to read. They've asked us for more and more New Testaments, and because it's open right now and there's no oppressive regime, many of them are open to the gospel."

Brewer says although the official handover of power to Iraqi officials took place last week, the ministry will still be able to distribute New Testaments in the region because of its network of volunteers in the Middle East.

Todd Nettleton of 'Voice of the Martyrs', gave a similar account, saying that in spite of some reports of violence, Christians are sharing Bibles and Christian material on the streets of Iraq. "The people were overjoyed. They were glad to have it. They were asking for more and I think the people there are very hungry and there is a great opportunity for the Gospel work to go forward."

However, with the great uncertainty that exists following the recent turnover, Nettleton urged people to pray. "First we can pray for safety. Secondly pray that they will be effective ministers of the Gospel. During this time of turmoil people are asking questions and this is a time where there can be a great harvest of souls. And so we need to pray that the Holy Spirit will be working on the hearts of Muslim people in Iraq. We also need to pray for the Christian people who are reaching out to them."

Currently, local Christians are waiting to see how the police and military will handle violence that is targeted specifically toward the Christian church. Also, according to Open Doors, a ministry serving the persecuted church, Iraqi Christians are concerned about the future of their country and whether they can openly worship.

As Iraq's new administration takes control there is hope that the violence may decrease, but while that remains uncertain this will continue to be a time of great turmoil and change for the people of Iraq.

Kenneth Chan
Ecumenical Press