IFES

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persecuted but not abandoned

God personally and powerfully met each person in the small group times as we reflected on the book of Titus.

On 31 October 2011, hundreds of Christians met in a church in Baghdad, Iraq, to mark the first anniversary of a massacre there that killed 44 worshippers, two priests and seven members of the security forces. While this heavily guarded remembrance took place without incident, Christians still fear for their lives.

According to Reuter’s news agency, Iraq's Christians numbered around 1.5 million before 2003 and are now estimated at about 450,000 - 600,000. A 2009 report by Human Rights Watch says that two-thirds of Iraq's Christians have fled their homes, either becoming internally displaced - most going to the less violent Kurdish north - or fleeing the country altogether.

It is not only persecution that Iraqi Christians face, but neglect by their government and the feeling that they have been forgotten by their brothers and sisters in the rest of the world.

In the midst of such issues, student work in Iraq is very precarious. Holding a large group meetings is a security risk. However, given the isolation of Christians throughout Iraq and the persecution they often suffer, country-wide conferences are vital to strengthen the ministry. Students and church members find such occasions a great source of encouragement and a major source of teaching, so the Middle East and North Africa region is determined to help them hold these events.

The most recent Iraqi Students and Graduates conference took place in northern Iraq from 10 - 14 August 2011. Eighty students, graduates and church leaders from five major cities and some northern villages were able to attend.

H, a staff worker in the MENA region who attended the conference, reports: ‘We are grateful to God that the logistics and travel went smoothly, especially considering that some students had to travel for many hours and pass through multiple checkpoints.

‘The praise and worship sessions were amazing! Students and graduates from different cities and churches led the worship each time – we were encouraged to see their enthusiasm to get involved practically. It was really evident that God personally and powerfully met each person in the small group times as we reflected on the book of Titus.’

Student testimonies also reveal what God was doing through this event:

R was really happy when she received a bible and asked if it contained both the New and Old Testaments. When told that it was a complete bible she said, ‘Finally! It was my prayer to get my own bible!

C said, ‘It was a great blessing and I made a lot of decisions for my life. As Iraqi students it's hard to meet other believers who are students, but this conference gave us opportunity to meet students from other cities in the country.’

F appreciated the training he received: ‘We studied the word of God, and we discussed in small groups how to lead bible study groups in the universities. It was a real blessing for me!’

H, the staffworker who helped organise the conference, concludes: ‘Thank you again for all your support. Please continue praying, especially as you read or see news from this region. Your prayers are appreciated!’

Please pray for the students now that they are back home again - that God will give them strength, joy and courage to know Jesus and to make him known. Pray that they might know the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:8 – ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.’

Comments

jayasheel

I thank God for giving me this opportunity to pray for Iraq,and for the students to experience joy of the salvation and to stand as witnesses as light and salt.

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