Persecution of 45,000 Iraqi Christian refugees in Turkey should serve as wake-up call to American churches

(Reuters/Umit Bektas)A Syrian refugee holds onto his daughter as he waits to cross into Turkey at Akcakale border gate in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 15, 2015.

The plight of the persecuted and deprived 45,000 Iraqi Christian refugees in Turkey should serve as a wake-up call to churches in the United States, according to Iraqi Christian Relief Council president Juliana Taimoorazy.

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Taimoorazy said many of the Iraqi Christians who have sought refuge in Turkey are forced to live in slum areas surrounded by Muslims. Taimoorazy, who is also a senior fellow with the Philos Project, said these believers are not allowed to even wear crucifixes or reveal their Christian faith in public because the people around them might force them out.

Taimoorazy also said even mosques and local Muslim charities refuse to help the Iraqi Christian refugees. Despite their deplorable situation, the U.S. State Department is not exerting efforts to help them relocate to another country where they can live more safely. She also lamented the slow response of the U.S. churches to the refugee crisis.
"There have been some churches that extended help, financial or prayer, but this is such a monumental situation that we need more churches to wake up," Taimoorazy told CBN. "... If we don't talk to our fellow Americans, our fellow Christians, in our churches, and if we don't pray unitedly for the body of Christ, the Middle East will be empty of Christians."

In a piece she wrote for The Huffington Post, Taimoorazy said the Iraqi Assyrian Christians seeking refuge in Turkey now feel forgotten by the United States and the world and face double persecution — both as refugees and as Christians. Even though the European Union has taken steps to improve employment and services for them, Turkey's government is unable to provide them with enough protection.

To raise awareness of the situation, Taimoorazy suggested hosting a prayer vigil for them, like the Rise Vigil prayer vigil kit which she and the Philos Project created for those who want to help the persecuted Christian refugees. Another way of helping these refugees is to join their #Feed1000Families campaign, which aims to feed the displaced and persecuted believers staying in Turkey.

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