Yesterday's story from Iraq was on Islamic fundamentalists taking over a Catholic church in the middle of its service and holding over 100 people hostage. Eventually the siege ended when Iraqi soldiers stormed the church. Sadly, 58 hostages were killed, and 75 were wounded during the siege and rescue attempt.
This event brings two thoughts to mind. First, we need to recognize that the state of Israel shouldn't be singled out for the decline in the number of Christians living in the Middle East. Just a week ago I wrote about the conference held in Rome that blamed Israel for most of the problems being faced by Christian Arabs. I noted then that the conference "failed to acknowledge the true oppressor of the church in the Middle East—Islam." Sadly, here is another example of that oppression. The Christian Science Monitor cited a Human Rights Watch report stating that two-thirds of Iraq's Christian population have been forced to flee their homes. Israel gets blamed for the dwindling Christian population in the Middle East, but most of the Christians who are leaving do so because of threats and attacks from Islamic fundamentalists.
Second, we need to pray for all those in the Middle East who claim to be followers of Christ. Pray that God will give His followers boldness to be a witness for Him even in times of persecution. We should heed Paul's admonition regarding the real enemy we face...and the amazing resources we possess. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand....And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints" (Ephesians 6:12-13, 18).
Carve out some time today to pray for our brothers and sisters throughout the Middle East!