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Friday
Nov262010

IRAQI RELIGIOUS FREEDOM HIGHLIGHTED IN PARLIAMENT: Hear, hear!

A loud “hear, hear” to the remarks made by Hon. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.) in the House of Commons on November 23, 2010, highlighting the persecution of Christians in Iraq.  You can read her full statement here. Ms. Sgro noted:

Discrimination against Iraqi Christians continues to prevent children from attending classes and their parents from fully engaging in society. To put it another way, Iraq's shameful history of human rights suppression has still not ended and this can be clearly seen as a result of the recent killings.

Recent weeks have seen an increase in the number and severity of instances of persecution against Christians in Iraq. One of the bloodiest occurrences in almost seven years occurred on October 31 at the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Seven Islamic militants stormed the church during an evening service after detonating bombs in the neighbourhood, gunning down two policemen at the stock exchange across the street and blowing up their own car, according to The Associated Press (AP). 

Compass News Direct reported that

A militant organization called the Islamic State of Iraq, which has links to al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, claimed responsibility for the attack. The militants sprayed the sanctuary with bullets and ordered a priest to call the Vatican to demand the release of Muslim women whom they claimed were held hostage by the Coptic Church in Egypt, according to the AP. The militants also reportedly demanded the release of al Qaeda prisoners.

At the conclusion of a four hour siege, the Islamic assailants blew themselves up, killing 58 people, including three of the church’s leadership. Lax security from the Iraqi government has long been a complaint from Christian citizens of this country, leaving them without protection from militant groups, and with few options other than fleeing their homeland. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of Iraq’s Christian community has fled the country since 2003. There are nearly 600,000 Christians left in Iraq. (See the EFC’s “A Report on Religious Liberty for Christians in Iraq").  Such an exodus could bring an end to the Christian Church’s long and rich history in this region.

On November 14, many churches and Christians came together globally for IDOP Sunday, a day set aside to pray for the persecuted church around the world. This event is coordinated by International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) www.idop.ca, of which The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is a partner, along with Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, Intercede International, and International Christian Response.

Photo courtesy of Grace Hutchinson, 2010On November 1, Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon soundly condemned the October 31 attack in Baghdad. This past week, MP Sgro called on the government to take additional diplomatic efforts “to ensure the basic ideals of religious freedom and tolerance are respected and protected for all Iraqis.”  

Recent intensified attacks on Christians in Iraq are disturbing, to say the least, to Christians world-wide. And so we engage in prayer, one of the most effective tools at our disposal, to affect change.  It is encouraging when Members of Parliament, like Minister Cannon and Ms. Sgro, also use one of their most effective tools – their voice in Parliament - to highlight the urgent need for Canada’s Government to continue to raise its voice in condemnation against such violations of religious freedom and human rights and to challenge the government of Iraq to respect the rights it says have been granted its citizens.

 




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