An international ministry organization reaching out to Christians in Iraq is confirming the pressure from Muslims on Christians to abandon their faith or their homes is rising, with videos of actual beheadings used to threaten believers.
The reports come from Open Doors USA, which has had an arm of help reaching into Iraq for several decades.
The newest report from the organization describes the experience of Iraqi Christian dentist Shamir (a pseudonym). He got a letter condemning him for not being a Muslim.
“It said that he was impure because he was not a Muslim. It said he should leave the country immediately or face the consequences. And if he and his family hadn’t left their house within eight hours, they would die,” the report said.
“He felt rage and fear. Leave the house where his family lived for three generations! He had lived in Dora his whole life. It was the Christian district of Baghdad. Who did those guys think they were?” continue the report. “He remembered the story of one of his neighbors. They had not fled when the first letter appeared. After a few days, armed men came in and killed their dog. His neighbors left their house the same day. Within a few hours a Muslim family moved into the house.”
Then, the report said, “Shamir” picked up a DVD enclosed with the letter.
“The DVD started with some verses from the Quran. Then he saw a young man sitting on his knees. The man was interrogated by an armed man wearing balaclavas (headgear covering the entire head, exposing only the face or upper part of it). The young man said he was a Christian. He lived and worked in Baghdad. Then the men explained to him that he was going to die.
“Shamir had not heard his wife coming in. ‘What are you watching, Shamir?’ she asked, but her question went unanswered as he vomited. Before their eyes, the young man was beheaded. Amal was sick, too. ‘We have to flee,’ Shamir whispered. ‘Pack only what is really necessary.'”
Open Doors reported that within six hours Shamir was driving to Kurdistan with all that he possessed, completing his journey at an unheated home in a mountain village where his children cannot go to school because they don’t speak the language.
Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra told WND that the situation is just one of many similar situations he’s heard, and they come from reliable ministry sources within Iraq.
Ministry volunteers, he said, report what they see and hear to various country or region directors for Open Doors, who forward it to the United States as part over “overview” reports on what is going on.
Open Doors said it estimates about 3,000 refugees flee each day to northern Iraq, and 40 percent of those are Christians.
“These figures are based on information from inside Iraq and other sources, but are very difficult to verify,” the ministry said. “The figures are a good indication, however, of the present situation of the church in Iraq.”
The organization said historically Christian neighborhoods, such as Dora, now have been “religiously cleansed” of most Assyrian Christians.
Christian churches also have been targeted by vandals, and in Mosul, a Christian told Open Doors how his brother-in-law had been forced to pay $4,000 a month to a Muslim group to continue his business.
Then the brother-in-law was kidnapped, and his family got a demand for $600,000.
“They have managed to raise $150,000 so far, but this was not enough for the group holding him. Negotiations were continuing with this man, but it’s likely his brother-in-law has been murdered,” Open Doors said.
Outright murders also are haunting the Christian community.
“On June 3 … Father Ragheed Keni, pastor of the Holy Spirit Church in the Al-Noor neighborhood of Mosul, was murdered along with his deacons by unidentified gunmen immediately after the Sunday Mass,” Open Doors said.
The organization estimates 200 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, and another 200 million to 400 million face discrimination and alienation.