More disturbing news and pictures flooded our screens from the Middle East on July 4th that you may have chosen to turn away from. Very understandable. In an unending string of violence and pain not only “out there” but also in our own back yard, many of us are asking, what can we do? Perhaps we can help bring some hope and useful perspective to you from our Iraqi pastors.
Our eye witnesses in Baghdad report that over 500 have died from the massive car bomb ISIS detonated in a popular shopping mall in the Karrada district where many young teens and 20’s go to have coffee, visit and shop. What’s more disturbing is that Iraqis fear ISIS has a new weapon. The explosion was followed by a massive fireball that traveled through the entire mall and then into the basement where people had tried to escape and incinerated both the mall and many of the victims.
With ISIS claiming responsibility for this horrific act, it’s important to connect a few dots. First, ISIS is losing ground in Iraq (this bombing was in retaliation for the fall of Fallujah) and Syria. A Sunni sect of Islam, ISIS is clearly at odds with Shiites, demonstrated by 13 Ramadan attacks worldwide (CNN 7/7/16 online report) including explosions in Medina, Jeddah and Qatif in Saudi Arabia. Concerns are heightened that ISIS is forcing civil uprising between the two sects, especially in Iraq.
As our focus in ministry is to help the Church be an effective change agent in a very hurting world, we’re concerned at how the Church in Baghdad is reacting and asked how can we help? Five Iraqi pastors spoke with IM CEO John Cook that week, each one working to help victims’ families. One senior pastor summed up by saying, “John, our people (Muslims) in Baghdad are very discouraged, troubled and desperate. God is breaking the hearts of our stubborn people and they see more and more that their help is not in their religion…we share the hope of Jesus with them each day when they come to us…they know that we Christians care and will not leave…every day I see more Muslims transformed and changed. Ask the Believers in the US to please continue to pray.”
What can we do? First, focus on truth. While ISIS seems to be ultimate evil, Scripture states there is nothing new under the sun. This is not an equal struggle of good and evil…God reminds us that He is sovereign and in control, “Greater is He that is within you than he that is in the world.” I John 4:4. ISIS has revealed intentions and shined light on Islam’s darkness to Christians and Muslims alike. People are responding to the truth.
Secondly, our prayers matter (James 5:16) – Pray Scriptures over the Church, use our blogs as prayer prompts. Thirdly, pray for and engage with us as we church plant in the ME; help us support national pastors. With the Iraqi economy in crisis, each pastor’s salary we help provide keeps one more pastor in Iraq helping those who so desperately need them. Hundreds of Iraqi pastors have immigrated to the US and other countries even as the Church is in desperate need of solid, stable shepherds. We have three pastors right now we can help at $500/month; thank you for encouraging the Church, her pastors and the Body by praying for them and supporting the Global Church Planting Initiative.