Tens of thousands of displaced Iraqi Christians in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan are expected to attend a massive prayer gathering this Friday (18 December). Christ Day Erbil is the climax of 50 days of prayer and will gather Christians of all denominations to pray for the Church and nation.
The six-hour event is being organised by Life Agape with the support of the Chaldean Catholic Church and other denominations. It will be broadcast across the country and wider region by Christian satellite network SAT-7.
SAT-7 ARABIC Programming Director George Makeen said some 25-50,000 Iraqi Christians are expected to take part. Among them will be representatives of villages and towns recently liberated from so-called Islamic State (IS). Following the launch of the campaign to recapture Mosul and surrounding towns these former residents will share their testimonies and receive prayer. Two of the region’s best known Christian worship leaders, Revd Zyad Shehada from Jordan and Nizzar Faris from Lebanon, will lead the congregation in praise.
Makeen said the event climax will see thousands of Iraqi believers coming together to stand together in the shape of a cross, adding, “Then they will send up prayers for Iraq on balloons as a symbol of raising prayer on behalf of the whole nation.”
Life Agape coordinates a nationwide prayer network within Iraq and since 1 October it has been calling believers across this war-torn country to fast and pray.
Referring to the invasion of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain by IS in 2014, Life Agape Iraq Director Maher Barbary said, “More than two years ago the Church had a vicious attack that left it in despair. They saw the broken buildings of the Church and the Christian families displaced inside and outside Iraq.
“But,” he continued, “we and others believe God has a different plan, a plan that can turn this dark picture into a bright picture”. He outlined a vision in which the Church as the Bride of Christ would be revealed as a united body lifting up the name of Jesus across Iraq, a land that, since 2003 especially, has suffered continued violence because of deep sectarian conflicts. He added: “The Christians of Iraq from all denominations will gather to celebrate this fact – that God’s plan will prevail.”
SAT-7’s George Makeen underscored the challenges Iraq faces even as communities are gradually liberated from IS. He said, “My prayer is for God’s peace and wisdom as they experience such difficult times.
“While Iraqis celebrate successes in defeating IS and liberation of their towns, the fear of violence committed by Shia militias (the PMU), the fear of regional conflicts between key players (Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia), the conflicts between different religious and ethnic groups (Shia, Sunni, Arabs and Kurds), and the fears people will have as they consider returning to homes they were forced to leave: all of these limit the joy and hope people should be experiencing.
“The country still lacks the sense of true unity and belonging. I pray that God will give leaders wisdom to help their people to feel that the current developments are the start of a better future.”