Before church this Easter morning I was reading through the papers and came across this article in the Daily Telegraph about the awful situation in which Iraqi Christians find themselves. It's a tragic report of several hundred thousand Christian refugees fleeing the violence they encounter in the likes of Bagdad and Mosul and heading for the West or the Kurdish areas, death threats, being stopped in the streets with demands to see identity cards, resulting in being robbed, kidnapped or more recently simply shot out of hand. Murder of clergy and laity is frequent. And it is clear they are being targeted specifically because they are Christians.
The report highlighted several issues for me. First, anti-Zionist Christians do the plight of such Christians in Iraq and across the Middle East few favours by constantly focusing on the situation in the Holy Land at the expense of the terrible trials Christians face across the wider region. The horrors described should have us all up in arms, but voices from some segments of the Church are strangely silent over the persecution of Christians in Muslim lands. Inevitably, these persecuted Christians might be forgiven for feeling their Western counterparts have forgotten them. I was also struck by the details in the Telegraph story of an influx of Western missionaries imemdiately after the Iraq war and the damage this purportedly caused. Such activity in a Muslim area, especially in the wake of a war by America and the West, if not thought through carefully and can appear triumphalist, and as such defeats the whole effort to spread the Gospel. I'm not saying we shouldn't evangelise in Muslim lands, we certaionly should be preaching the Gospel wherever we have an opportunity. But Islamic extremism is such in soe countries it has to be done differently from in the West. I have warned about the dangers of triumphalism within the context of Christians in Muslim lands here, and we do well to take care how we discuss and work within such regions, ensuring we do not endanger further the immensely precarious positions our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ find themselves in some such countries.