Iraq Violence Driving Out Church, Increasing ‘Vacuum’

Saddam Hussein’s execution has led to increased anger, demonstrations and violence in Iraq, fueling a source for the departure of churches in the country.

Sunni Muslims in Iraq demonstrated in the thousands against the manner of Saddam’s execution, calling it an “act of crude vengeance,” reported ABC News on Tuesday.

The intensified tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has raised concern on the situation of Iraqi Christians.

Carl Moeller, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, said the rise in violence following Saddam’s execution is a cause for the continued emigration of the church.

“That creates a huge problem because the church is fleeing in large numbers and that is creating an increased vacuum of buffer between the Sunni and Shia factions throughout Iraq,” said Moeller, according to Mission Network News on Wednesday. “That is only increasing the violence as those two factions are dedicated to each others’ destruction.”

There have been reports of attacks against churches in Iraq including some burned to the ground, according to MNN.

Open Doors, a Christian persecution ministry, reports, however, that there is improvement in efforts to spread the Gospel in Iraq.

“During the regime of Saddam Hussein there was not much Christian literature available,” said an Open Doors book distributor, according to MNN. “After the war in 2003, it is slowly improving; so every book and Bible is welcome in the country.”

The ministry operates several Christian cultural centers in Iraq to support the country’s minority Christian population through skill-building courses such as in the areas of computers, music, and English. The centers also engage in religious dialogues and occasionally hold conferences to show movies like the Jesus Film or discuss Christian cultural topics.

“The absolute truth is that many Iraqis are turning to Christ when they are given the opportunity to hear clearly the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the hope, the love and the peace that is offered within a relationship with Christ,” Moeller told The Christian Post in November 2006. “So we are seeing that despite the violence and despite the opposition, Christians are reaching out to their Muslim neighbors and their Muslim neighbors are turning to faith in Jesus Christ.”

Open Doors has distributed 22,000 copies of the Children’s Bible in Iraq.

“We pray that those who hold power in Iraq now and in the future will create a new heritage of government for its people,” said the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, the World Council of Churches’ General Secretary, on Saturday. “May Iraq’s leaders pursue reconciliation and mutual respect among all its communities.”