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.


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!


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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Iraq – 5 Ways We Are Helping Christians

The church in Iraq is disappearing, with more than 70% of the Christian population having left the country over the last 15 years. It’s estimated that there are only 250,000 Christians left in Iraq, over half of them are displaced. 

This situation will take generations to heal and rebuild. Open Doors were working with the church in Iraq well before the rise of the Islamic State and, God willing, will be there for many years to come.

We want to help strengthen the church in Iraq, so for the month of August we are asking for donations to Iraq. We have a goal of $200,000 and need your help to reach this goal. Click here to donate to the Iraq Appeal.

Your donation to our Iraq Appeal will support Christians with things like:

1. Emergency Relief (Food, Healthcare & Housing)

Food and hygiene packs for Iraqi IDPs.

Food and hygiene packs for Iraqi IDPs.

Through local partners and churches, Open Doors distributes food/hygiene packages to about 15,000 displaced Christian families (about 75,000 people) each month. Providing quality food, clean water, sanitation and healthcare is the first step in ensuring the survival of the church. Continue reading

Father Jacques Hamel. Source: CNN

France Church Attack: How can Christians respond?

Islamic State have claimed their first attack on a church in Europe, killing a French priest. An attack like this on Christians is rare in the West, so how as Christians, can we respond?

What happened?

A priest has been killed in an attack claimed by the Islamic State in France. On Tuesday 26 July, two men armed with knives entered Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray church, in Normandy, France. During morning mass the pair took the congregation hostage before forcing Father Jacques Hamel to kneel down. Witnesses say the pair then filmed themselves as they executed the priest and made a statement from the pulpit in Arabic. Continue reading