What I'm Praying For Iraq

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I’m up late tonight reading about Iraq and the systematic persecution (even execution) of religious minorities happening right now. Right this minute.

Just writing that sentence makes me angry and sad and confused. Because I’m sitting in my safe house typing on a computer, accessing articles from all around the world, checking in on Facebook, drinking coffee. I am drinking coffee. And my brothers and sisters are dying.

As I read, blood puddles in my hallway just beyond the top right corner of my screen. I look up and it’s gone, but it was there. 

A thick pool of dark red, life spilled on my hardwood floors.

I belong to those men and women, all of us washed in blood; their far away suffering is close.

This afternoon I watched an interview with a man who says Christian men, women and children are being slaughtered—children beheaded, men crucified, women raped and beheaded.

Tonight I’ve been reading everything I can find, trying to sort out what we know and what’s conjecture or hearsay. There is no proof that children are being treated this way. Or that execution is widespread. But we know the threat has been made. I suspect we know less than we think.

Recently I read about the church in Germany during the holocaust—about how they didn’t believe the Nazis were capable of the atrocities they later discovered. They waited much too long to step in, so that by the time they were sure and ready, they’d lost the chance. They spoke out too late and died alongside those they’d failed to help.

I want so much to help…

I just found this and now I’m crying again. It’s from Vicar Andrew White of Baghdad’s St. George’s Church, the only Anglican congregation in Iraq:

“The photo I was sent today was the most awful I have ever seen… A family of 8 all shot through the face laying in a pool of blood with their Bible open on the couch. They would not convert; it cost them their life. I thought of asking if anybody wanted to see the picture but it is just too awful to show to anybody.”

I know it’s strange—I guess it’s strange—but when I read the vicar’s words I wasn’t only sad. I felt glad. And proud. Certain. Brackish tears ran rivers down my cheeks, sweet and salty, oil and water mixed.

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Earlier today I told my girls about Iraq. London asked, “Why doesn’t God rescue them.”

I said “I don’t know.”

She said maybe we shouldn’t pray. Because if God wanted to rescue them He would.

Justin said, “That’s not how it works. Not exactly.”

I told them about the first century Christians, about being fed to the lions. I said sometimes they would sing in the Colosseum, praising God as they waited to be devoured.

I said that somehow, this was good to do. Somehow, I don’t understand it, but somehow God is honored in our suffering—when we suffer because of our love for Him.

I said there was something beautiful about a courageous, defiant death.

A few minutes later we prayed.

Eve asked God to rescue the people in Iraq.

London prayed, “God, help them die goodly. Fill them with love and strength when they die.”

From now on, I’m praying for rescue and for good death. Both.

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Because I feel burdened by the suffering of my people, I’ve decided to start an online prayer group. If you’d like to pray daily for all those being persecuted in Iraq, send your email address to jlgerhardt@yahoo.com.

Also, I’ve changed a couple details of this post in response to further digging into the available facts.