While the issue of Islam remains a hot topic in America and elsewhere, the Christian organization, Barnabas Aid is calling for urgent prayer and political intervention after Al-Qaeda said Christians everywhere are “legitimate targets” following the bloody siege at a Baghdad church on Sunday.
Al-Qaeda has been quoted as saying, “Christians everywhere are legitimate targets.”
The Islamic State of Iraq, an Al-Qaeda front group, claimed responsibility for the attack that left 58 people dead and, in a statement on Tuesday, said that the “killing sword will not be lifted”.
The threat was extended to “all Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers” when a 48-hour deadline expired for the release of Muslim women the group falsely claims that the Egyptian Church is holding captive.
This was one of the demands made by the armed militants who took around 100 worshippers hostage during an evening service at the church in Baghdad on Sunday, October 31.
They also demanded the release of Al-Qaeda prisoners held in Iraq. Dozens of Christians, as well as security forces and attackers, died in the ensuing fighting, with scores more wounded. Among the victims were Raghada al-Wafi, who was pregnant, and Thar Abdallah, the church minister who had conducted her wedding ceremony.
The latest Al-Qaeda threat has heightened fears for Iraq’s beleaguered Christian community, as well as the Egyptian Church, that was profiled in an October 25 press release in which Egyptian Christians were threatened with a “bloodbath” by Islamists and believers across the Middle East.
A senior Iraqi church leader said yesterday that it could force Christians to leave the country.
Sunday’s siege was the deadliest recorded attack against Iraq’s Christians, who have endured repeated violence since the US-led invasion in 2003. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee as a result of the attacks, their numbers falling from 1.5 million in 1990 to perhaps as low as 400,000 today.
Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid said, “Christians across the Middle East region are now in a highly perilous situation. We must fervently pray for their safety and also exert pressure on international governments to protect their Christian citizens.”
Barnabas Aid has requested that citizens contact their representative and ask them to raise this as a matter of urgency with the relevant government department.
Barnabas Aid has also requested citizens to pray that there will be no further violence in Iraq following Sunday’s attack and subsequent co-ordinated bombings of Shiite districts. That Al-Qaeda’s threats will not be carried out and that Christians across the Middle East will be kept safe, and that governments will step in to protect their Christian citizens and take swift action against perpetrators of violence.