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Iraq crisis: Christians flee as Islamic militants seize town « Stour Valley Vineyard
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APTOPIX Mideast Iraq Fleeing Christians

A letter from our senior pastor, Andrew Stewart-Darling

I know that I am technically on holiday, but I have felt a divine ‘tug’ to communicate my thoughts and actions on recent conflicts. Not least on what has been reported today.

Will you please take just a couple of minutes to read my words and respond as the Holy Spirit guides you?

I recognise that it is hard for us in the UK to truly grasp the level of suffering inflicted on ordinary people in the Middle East and Arab World but, like us, they simply yearn to live a life in peace and bring their families up the best they can.

Some news commentators are calling this period ‘the summer of war’. And it is not hard to see why. Conflicts in Syria, Nigeria, Gaza and Iraq dominate our TV screens. They constantly remind us of how broken our world is, but I have to believe that the cross is big enough to deal with all the world’s suffering.

As the hundredth anniversary of the First World War has reminded us this week, there is nothing whatsoever glorious or spiritually rewarding in a war that seeks domination over another people for its own profit or ideological agenda. What right does one man have to take away the breath of another man?

In particular, the conflict between Israel and Gaza should challenge every Christian to the core.

It is why this week I joined with other local church leaders to co-sign a letter to express my deepest concerns to the Right Honourable Phillip Hammond MP, the Foreign Secretary, regarding our country’s relationship Israel. Our local MP Tim Yeo and friend of Vineyard, Lord Andrew Phillips have also thrown their support behind our letter.

Today I read of fresh violence with the extreme persecution of Christians in Qaraqosh in Nineveh, northern Iraq. Our Christian family have seen more than their fair share of violence and suffering in the past two decades. It just goes from bad to worse. BBC News shows how the ancient Christian community have been singled out by Islamist militants ISIS for systematic eradication. Recently we saw the last Christians forced out of Mosul in northern Iraq. There is no mercy. There is no safe refuge.

So, if you are able, I’d like you to do two things today. Firstly, pray with me!

Pray for those persecuted Christian families fleeing from conflict: afraid, homeless and penniless. For those who have lost fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers. Pray that our persecuted family will be given the courage and strength to see a better day.

Secondly, please give a gift to Open Doors Iraq Emergency Appeal.

Open Doors works in the most dangerous places in the world to bring practical and spiritual support to those where faith costs everything. They do an amazing thing, which often means putting themselves at extreme risk. The Iraq Emergency Appeal is already proving to be their biggest ask for support ever! And I cannot say that I am altogether surprised! This is hitting the nerves of many Christians in this country and across the world.

If you are part of Stour Valley Vineyard, please know that we have already made a gift on your behalf. But if you would like to give further as a family or individual I know that our persecuted family would love to hear from you. Please click here.

Meanwhile, “let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:23-24). 

Thank you. The Lord bless you and keep you safe this summer.

Much love,

Andrew (and Emma)





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