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Embattled Iraqi Christians Need Protection Now

Open Doors USA Urges Signing of Petition to Secretary of State Clinton on Behalf of Christians

Contact: Jerry Dykstra, Director of Media Relations, Open Doors USA, 616-915-4117, JerryD@odusa.org 

SANTA ANA, Calif., Jan. 18, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- During early evening on Dec. 30, an elderly Christian couple -- Fawzi Rahim, 76, and his wife Janet Mekha, 78 -- answered their doorbell at their Baghdad, Iraq, home.

When they opened the door, a bomb placed on their steps exploded. Both were instantly killed.

Rahim's brother, Falah al-Tabbakh, told the Associated Press: "When I went there, I found both of them cut to pieces near the gate of their house."

During that night at least seven other Christian homes in Baghdad were targeted, resulting in at least 13 people being wounded. The carnage came a week after al-Qaeda-linked militants renewed their threats to attack Iraq's Christians.

The violence against Christians in Iraq has rapidly escalated in the past year, including a bomb attack on three buses carrying Christian students in May and the Oct. 31 siege at Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral in Baghdad in which 58 were killed. According to Asia News, a Christian doctor was shot and seriously wounded at a medical clinic in Mosul last Saturday.

As a result of the increase in violence against Christians, Iraq moved from No. 17 to No. 8 on this year's Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.

The number of Christians in Iraq has decreased from an estimated 850,000 in 1991 to 330,000 today. Thousands have fled Iraq and now reside as impoverished refugees in Syria and Jordan. Of the Christians that remain in Iraq, more than half are internally displaced due to violence and constant threats against them by Islamic extremists.

The Iraqi government clearly has not made protection of Christians a priority.

"The U.S. government needs to strongly encourage and work with the Iraqi government to protect Christians and other religious minorities before they are all driven out of Iraq," said Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller. "History continues to demonstrate that where religious freedom flourishes, stable democracies, strong economies and healthy societies develop. Considering the immense financial commitment the United States has made in Iraq and the tragic loss of American and Iraqi lives, it is imperative that we hold both the United States and Iraqi governments accountable to ensure religious freedom for all people in Iraq."

Open Doors USA is not only urging your prayers for our fellow embattled believers in Iraq, but it is also asking people to sign a petition to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The petition is asking her to work with the Iraqi government to immediately form and implement a comprehensive plan of action to protect the vulnerable community of Christians in Iraq. 

To sign the petition, go to members.opendoorsusa.org/worldwatchlist/petition.

"The church of Iraq is bleeding and crying tears. God collects the tears in His jar and one day He will use it to irrigate Iraq. But I think not yet," said an Open Doors worker in Baghdad.

Open Doors' outreach in Iraq includes trauma counseling, distribution of Christian literature to all denominations, translating literature into the Kurdish language, training new Christians, working as a NGO in Kurdistan among Internally Displaced Persons, job creation and micro-finance.

An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our Website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.

(To set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email jerryd@odusa.org.)