Two Christians Murdered, Others
Long Feared Anti-Christian Violence Begins?
As Shia Muslims become more aggressive and vocal in their demands for an Islamic State based on Shariah the anti-Christian violence which Christians in Iraq have long feared seems finally to have arrived with the brutal murder of two Christian men. Britains Daily Telegraph reports the deaths of Sabah Gazala and Abdul Ahed who were shot and killed by two Islamic gunmen within ten minutes in separate incidents in Basra on 8 May. Like a number of Christians in the city and in other parts of Iraq they were involved in the sale of alcohol, jobs forbidden to Muslims but permitted to Christians under Saddam Husseins rule. In recent weeks such vendors have faced severe threats from Shia Muslim conservatives seeking to impose defacto Islamic law (which bans alcohol completely) in Iraq in the chaotic wake of the victory of coalition forces in the country. Many Christian shop owners have been forced to close, others to defend their premises with metal bars across the windows. In Basra, Baghdad and across Iraq some Christians are beginning to suffer harassment, threats, intimidation and even violence at the hands of conservative Shia Muslims who want to impose Shariah law on both Muslim and non-Muslim alike. On Friday 2 May Moqtada Sadr, one of the main Shia leaders in the country openly declared in a sermon in Kufa that The banning of alcohol; and the wearing of the veil should be spread to all and not only to Muslims. Last week in Basra the Los Angeles Times reports that Shereen Musa, a Christian woman, was pelted with vegetables to chants of Shame! Shame! as she walked with her mother through a market, simply because her head was not covered in accordance with the Shariah. Everyone was laughing at me, and I was crying, Shereen said, When I had to walk back through the same place someone saw a cross on my neck and said: Oh, youre a Christian. Youll suffer a terrible fate. Some Christian families like Shereens have now begun to leave Basra to return to the traditional Christian heartland around Mosul. In Baghdad Christians are terrified and hesitating to come to church as services at one Chaldean church in the city are drowned out by Islamic prayers and teaching broadcast by loudspeaker from a new mosque across the street. Elsewhere, shopkeepers selling western-style magazines with advertisements containing pictures of women considered unacceptable by many Shia Muslims have also been threatened and intimidated. Christians are fearful for their future in an Iraq which seems to be slipping into the hands of Muslim extremists who want an Islamic state under Shariah. Both the Vatican and the US Committee for International Religious Freedom have issued statements expressing their concern that religious liberty should be guaranteed for all in the future Iraq. Iraqi Church leaders from all the major denominations have similarly issued a joint statement asking that the new Iraqi constitution recognise our religious, cultural, social and political rights consider Christians as Iraqi citizens with full rights and guarantee the right to profess our faith according to our ancient traditions a clear indication of their concern. Said one Christian man in Baghdad It is going to be like Iran all Christians are afraid now. ACT Barnabas Fund is encouraging its supporters, Christians, Muslims and all people of good will to lobby the American and British governments (as the two main representatives of the coalition in Iraq). Please write, fax or e-mail urgently drawing attention to the fact that Christians are beginning to face violence and discrimination at the hands of conservative Muslims in the new Iraq and strongly calling on the coalition to 1. Take every possible measure to protect the Christian minority in Iraq and prevent them from becoming the victims of Islamic extremist violence. 2. Take urgent action to prevent the defacto enforcement of Islamic law by extremists in Basra, Baghdad or any other part of the country. 3. Ensure that the future Iraqi state, government and constitution is democratic and represents all groups in the country (Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Assyrian Christian, Turkomen and others). 4. Ensure that all groups are represented in the discussions concerning a future Iraq (including smaller groups such as Assyrian Christians and Turkomen) and that discussions are not simply dominated by the big three (Sunnis, Shias and Kurds). 5. Ensure that religious liberty is preserved in the country and that (although Muslims may be free to follow Shariah teachings as a matter of personal faith) Shariah will not be imposed on either Muslims or non-Muslims as part of the law. 6. Ensure a swift, but stable, transition of power to a new Iraqi government which should be democratic, accountable, representative and in full control of the countrys resources. Remember to be polite but clear in what you are asking. Request that your concerns be registered. Ask for a reply stating what steps are being taken to (1) safeguard the rights and freedoms of Christians in Iraq, (2) ensure that they have a fair say in the planning the future of their country, and (3) guarantee that their rights and freedoms will not be eroded in the new Iraq. Please write to the American President and the British Prime Minister at: President George Bush The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 USA email@example.com Fax: 00 1 202 456 2461 Salutation: Dear Mr President, The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP 10 Downing Street London SW1A 2AA UK No fax or e-mail available Salutation: Dear Prime Minister, British supporters can also lobby the British government through their MPs and contact the American President via the US Embassy: President George Bush C/o The American Embassy 24 Grosvenor Square LONDON W1A 1AE No fax or e-mail available (Name) MP House of Commons Westminster LONDON SW1A 0AA If you are not sure who your MP is you can find out by phoning the House of Commons Information Office on 020 7219 4272. Many MPs can also be contacted by e-mail, for a list of addresses please visit www.parliament.uk/directories/hciolists/alms.cfm GIVE Since the beginning of 1999, Barnabas Fund has been helping with monthly food parcels for the poorest Christian families in Iraq. This project is run by 72 churches in the country who organise the purchase and distribution of food to the neediest among their communities. A typical recipient might be a widow with four children and an elderly grandparent. The average food parcel costs £15 and includes staple dry foods, cooking oil, soap and other necessities. The project was helping an average 2,000 families per month in 2002. The current dislocation and chaos in Iraq means that the needs are even greater now. Barnabas Funds Iraqi Appeal is seeking 2,000 sponsors who are prepared to pledge £15 per month to help an Iraqi family. It also welcomes one-off gifts to provide for the current surge in needs for food, medical supplies and other needs. Further information concerning the Iraq Appeal can be found on Barnabas Funds website: http://www.barnabasfund.org/Projects/Iraq_Crisis/hope_for_iraq.htm http://www.barnabasfund.org/Projects/Iraq_Crisis/iraq_crisis_relief_project.htm PRAY Pray for protection for Christians and moderate Muslims across Iraq, that they will be free to practise their faith and live their lives without having Shariah teachings illegally imposed upon them by conservatives. Pray for an end to looting, lawlessness, banditry and disorder in Iraq. Pray for wisdom and guidance for the American and British governments and the Office for Reconstruction and Aid. Ask that that their decisions will be guided by compassion, mercy and justice as well as being practical and workable. Pray for the future Iraq, that a free and just country will emerge, where both Christians and Muslims are free to worship without fear, restriction or intimidation. FURTHER INFORMATION News Briefs and Reports from Barnabas Fund concerning the Christian community in Iraq over the past two months are available on the Funds website: http://www.barnabasfund.org/News/Archive/Iraq/Iraq-20030508.htm http://www.barnabasfund.org/News/Archive/Iraq/Iraq-20030403.htm http://www.barnabasfund.org/News/Archive/Iraq/Iraq-20030312.htm http://www.barnabasfund.org/News/Archive/Iraq/Iraq-060301.htm A fuller briefing for Church and group leaders (produced immediately prior to the recent conflict) is also available: http://www.barnabasfund.org/Projects/Iraq_Crisis/iraq_briefing.htm Together with a Power Point presentation: http://www.barnabasfund.org/About/Iraq/Iraq.pps 13 May 2003 BARNABAS FUND E-MAIL NEWS SERVICE The Barnabas Funds e-mail news service provides our supporters with short urgent news briefs and prayer requests for suffering Christians around the world. Please do share these news items with your Christian friends and churches. All news items are available on our website in a more colourful user-friendly presentation format which you can access, print and pass on. If you are not already receiving these news briefs directly from the Barnabas Fund and would like to, please contact us with your name, postal and e-mail addresses, and details of the church you attend. The Barnabas Fund, The Old Rectory, River Street, PEWSEY, Wiltshire, SN9 5DB, UK, Tel 01672 564938, Fax 01672 565030, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Web www.barnabasfund.org
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