Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)
Imagine being given a 48 hour ultimatum, because you were a Christian, to either leave your city with only the clothes on your back or face a tortured death? That is exactly what happened last week in Iraq. The Islamist terrorist group known as ISIS which captured Mosul last month, a city of nearly 2 million people, issued an ultimatum to all Christians living there that they had two days to either convert to Islam, flee or face death by the sword.
Not unlike the threat to the Jews in Esther’s day, an extermination plan was put into place that could not be changed or altered. Saturday at noon was the deadline and reports from Christian refugees fleeing the region convey the horrors of persecution. Patriarch Louis Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad said “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.”
The city of Mosul which once had upwards to 50,000 Christians is now seeing its churches and every vestige of Christian symbolism systematically destroyed. Last week ISIS began going throughout the community and scrawling the word “property of ISIS” on every Christian home. Christians fleeing Mosul did so with only the clothes on their backs as they were forced to leave everything behind including their money, gold, and jewelry.
Where will all these precious saints find refuge? Most are fleeing north into cities such as Irbil and Kurdish territory not held by the rebels where according to the UN more than 2 million refugees now reside.
Intercession is birthed through identification and putting ourselves in the shoes of others. Scripture encourages us to remember “those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” This verse in Hebrews is one of the best motivations there is to pray for those who are suffering. I don’t know about you, but it’s overwhelming to imagine being forced at the threat of death to leave everything I have invested my entire life in, my home, neighborhood, community, church and work, not knowing if I will ever return. It is hard to imagine trying to shepherd my family and loved ones safely through a war zone, with no resources and no idea what the future will hold. That would drive anyone to prayer, crying out to God for mercy, grace and wisdom!
Knowing the present plight of the Iraqi Christians should draw our hearts of compassion to prayer as well. Will you consider giving some time to praying for these brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering in that part of the world? It may seem like such a distant need and so overwhelming as to even know where to begin, but there are no limitations in God and every prayer does make a difference. For ideas as to how to pray for those who are being persecuted for their faith, are victims of war and are refugees – click here!
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