5 Of The Biggest Moments From The Persecuted Church in 2016

This article was written by Mike Gore, CEO Open Doors Australia & New Zealand.

2016 was a massive year!

Each year I try to pause and reflect on the biggest events from the last 12 months. I want to remember the moments that shook my world, and the moments when I saw God at work the most. Here are five of the biggest stand out events from 2016.

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1. Christian Towns Liberated From Islamic State

I remember sitting with a pastor in Northern Iraq in May as bombs exploded in the distance. The battle to regain ground from Islamic State (IS) raged in the distance. I heard story after story of people who had lost everything and lived with the daily stress of “ISIS coming”. To see a pastor in October return to his church, now liberated from IS and passionately ring the church bells for the first time in 2 years was incredible. It was such a powerful picture of hope, courage, and resolve that rang out over the city. Please keep praying as we continue long-term restoration plans for the local church.

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Christian Towns Liberated From ISIS: In Pictures

On Monday 17 October 2016 Iraq’s Prime Minister al-Abadi announced an historic operation to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State. Since then, the advance of Iraqi, Kurdish, and allied forces against Islamic State has proceeded far quicker than expected.

Christians towns such as Qaraqosh, Bartella and Karamles have all been liberated from Islamic State forces.

Open Doors received photos and video from the frontline, as church leaders returned to their villages and churches for the first time. They restored fallen crosses, salvaged ancient Christian manuscripts and rang the church bells in celebration!

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Cross pulled down on the top of a church in Qaraqosh.

Cross pulled down on the top of a church in Qaraqosh.

A church tower looks ready to collapse in Qaraqosh.

A church tower looks ready to collapse.

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Christian Girls Hid While Islamic State Invaded Their Home in Iraq

Last weekend, seven female Christian students were rescued after being trapped by Islamic State fighters for several hours, in a surprise attack on Kirkuk, Southeast of Mosul.van-2

“Suddenly their street was filled with Islamic State warriors shouting ‘Alahu Akbar,’” Father Ammar shared. “Most students were able to leave their houses in time, but seven girls couldn’t escape.”

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Mosul Liberation: Why It’s Significant To Christians

Mosul was Iraq’s second largest city before the Islamic State conquered it in June 2014. Right now the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces are embarking on an operation to liberate the city.

“For the first time in 1,600 years, there has been no Mass said in Mosul today.” – Archbishop of Erbil, June 2014.

Mosul’s Significance To Christians

Mosul was home to one of the largest Christian communities in Iraq before the 2003 invasion by US and coalition forces. Prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq had a Christian population of 1.5 million. By 2003 this had dropped 850,000 and now we estimate this to be around 250,000.

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30 Minutes To Leave Mosul

It was a hot afternoon in Mosul. When Amer* turned on his mobile phone, it seemed to explode with messages and missed calls.

“Haven’t you heard? You are a Christian. If you don’t leave Mosul by 12 midday you will be killed unless you convert.”

Amer’s heart raced. It was 11.30 am. 

It was June 2014 in Mosul, Amer’s hometown. Islamic State, then known as ISIS, had swiftly taken over his city. Christian houses were marked with an ‘N’ for Nasrani – meaning Christian, and scores of Christians left the city right away.

Images: Click image to read caption.

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4 Surprisingly Good News Stories From The Persecuted Church

On Thursday 13 October 2016, 21 of the kidnapped Chibok girls were released. For two-and-a-half years we have been praying with the parents for the release of these girls. 

It feels like it’s not often we hear good news like this. But today, we’re thankful to share this and 3 other good news stories from the persecuted church in Pakistan, Iraq and Burkina Faso! Continue reading

Creating Jobs – Suaad From Iraq

This blog was written by Emma, an Open Doors Australia worker.

Meet Suaad:

Suaad Has Been A Tailor In Iraq Since The 1980s.

I met Suaad when I travelled to Iraq earlier this year. Suaad has worked as a tailor since the 1980s, in Mosul. In 2014, Islamic State militants forced her to leave her home overnight. Now Suaad is staying with her brother and his family in a city in northern Iraq. She’s a widow and has no children, and hasn’t been able to return to her town.

She said, “I feel heavy inside, not knowing what has happened to my town. But one thing I do know—God is still there. Whatever other people have done to us, God is the one in charge.” Continue reading