As the world grieves over the Boston Marathon twin bomb attacks, 50 lie dead and 300 more injured in a series of explosions across Iraq.
There are reports of 30 different bombings and a shooting – all in one day.
While no group is claiming responsibility for the carnage, it wouldn’t be surprising if it was linked to Al-Qaeda, the Islamist group who have been behind destabilising violence in the past.
Of course it’s not the first series of bomb attacks in Iraq. So how should we react?
We are easily shocked when the relative peace of the United States is ruptured, but less so when the ongoing disturbance in Iraq escalates. It makes sense – it’s kind of like the shock you feel when someone you admire and respect stuffs up, compared to the “here we go again” feeling of someone untrustworthy falling into further trouble. But our lack of sensitivity or awareness shouldn’t lead to apathy.
For starters, the coming weekend marks the Iraq’s first elections since the withdrawal of US troops in December 2011. It’s an important time in the fragile country’s history, and democracy is under threat. This is reason enough for our prayers.
But we have a greater incentive to care, because our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq face death and persecution for their faith. Like all non-Muslims, they are in the minority in Iraq. And like other minorities, they have had to flee in the midst of ongoing violence.
Iraq has always been a religious patchwork. According to the CIA Factbook, there’s a majority Shia Muslim population of 60-65%, 32-37% Sunni Muslim and 3% Christian or other. Of those Christians, the majority are Assyrian, Chaldean or Syriac.
While the image we have of Iraq is one closely tied to Islam, Iraq is where the church spread in the first century, and is home to some of the oldest continuous Christian communities in the world. While they are not great in number, they have a rich cultural and spiritual heritage in what is some of the most contested land in the world.
Under intense pressure to convert, Christians in Iraq fear for their lives. A quick Google digs up story after story of Christians hunted down and murdered because of their faith.
The CIA Factbook estimates the population of Christians in Iraq has dropped by as much as 50 per cent since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Most have fled to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, although the Syrian conflict has seen many left stranded again.
These are people who need our prayers. While America will recover from the Boston attack, Iraq’s future hangs in the balance. Let’s not be blind to the war which rages on.More