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IRAQ HOSTS MIDEAST LEADERS AND RIVALS IN A BID TO EASE TENSIONS

Iraq

On Saturday 28 August, Arab heads of state and senior officials from the region including archenemies Iran and Saudi Arabia (who cut diplomatic ties at the beginning of 2016) held a rare meeting at a conference hosted by Iraq. After decades of being largely shunned by Arab leaders over security concerns amid back-to-back wars and internal unrest, this summit was seen as a major boost to Iraq in its new role of regional mediator. The meeting also aimed to ease Mideast tensions. Other leaders and officials in attendance included those from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which have endured a particularly bitter relationship in recent years, as well as the heads of state of Qatar and Egypt, two other governments that have been adversaries. French President Emmanuel Macron, who backed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s efforts to host the conference, was also present. He hailed the meeting as a major boost for Iraq and its leadership. Although organisers of the summit said they did not expect any diplomatic breakthroughs, topics covered included a regional water crisis, the war in Yemen and the severe economic and political crisis in Lebanon. Syria, which has been suspended from the Arab League since 2011, and Lebanon, which has been without a functional government for the past year, were not represented at the meeting. Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed reports that leaders also discussed investment projects between the participants and addressed political and security challenges facing Iraq, including the possible resurgence of the Islamic State (IS) group.

FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE

POPULATION: ± 41 MILLION CHRISTIAN: 1.3%
EVANGELICAL: 0.2%
UNREACHED GROUPS: 25 (98% of pop.)

It is encouraging to see the geopolitical progress made in Iraq, after years of conflict and instability, towards a role of mediator, in a highly volatile region. To see a country that has been brutalised, often by proxy forces (Saudi Arabia and Iran), hosting these very nations in a bid towards greater stability and peace for the region. May these efforts also be reflected in the work of the Church in Iraq. In the past two decades, the Christian population in Iraq has fallen by over 80%. The 1987 Iraqi census reported that there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, and today it is estimated that the Christian population is less than 250,000. Many Christians emigrated and very few have returned. Those who remain form a diverse and complex community of believers – Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, Syriac, Armenian and Chaldean. However, if, in worldly terms, Iraq can rise from the ashes and extend a hand of forgiveness and reconciliation, then surely the Iraqi Church could also be emboldened to advance the gospel of Peace of God’s Kingdom. But peace-making is not a quick or easy process. 1 Peter 3:11 says: “Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” The word “seek” implies that it is something that may sometimes be difficult to find, while “pursue” carries an element of perseverance. But, for those who believe and pursue the Lord, He encourages us through His example. Ephesians 2:13-14 says: “But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He, Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” May this be the testimony of the Church in Iraq – a beautiful unity of believers, extending grace, forgiveness, and mercy to their persecutors, by the power of His Spirit.

Please pray with us for the following:

  • For the Lord to establish Iraq in its role of mediator – leading to lasting breakthroughs in the region
  • For the Iraqi Church to be unified in their calling in Christ Jesus, setting aside differences, and pursuing their role of ambassadors of Christ
  • For believers to be encouraged as they rebuild their shattered communities

 

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Image: REUTERS/Iraqi PM Media Office

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