Can you imagine doing Bible mission in a country at war with fighting, destruction and danger all around you?
A place where Christians are persecuted, the government is unstable, violence is commonplace and poverty is widespread? This is the everyday reality for the Bible Society in Iraq.
Nabil Omiesh, Head of the Bible Society in Iraq, describes their operational conditions as “difficult”, and he makes a plea for support. “Due to the hard and difficult situation Iraq is passing through now, the religious extremism in the region, I would like to ask our Christian friends in New Zealand to help their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq. God bless you.”
They need help to keep them operational, so they can continue to have a presence in this war-torn landscape.
“We always need prayer for our staff, who are working under these difficult circumstances and require tremendous strength.”
Recently, Sandra Elliot from International Christian Concern (ICC) reported in an Assist News Service article the closure of eight churches in Baghdad due to significant loss of the Christian population. She writes, “Christianity was once an integral part of the multi-faceted religious fabric of Iraq. At the beginning of the 21st century, Christians made up ten percent of the total population. The recent history of Iraq, however, reflects a stream of repression, conflict, displacement and persecution.
“For the 230,000 Christians remaining in Iraq, we must continue to pray and support them,” she said.
The Bible Society in Iraq has two offices, one in the north dealing with the needs of the surrounding region and another in Baghdad dealing with the middle and southern part of the country.
Their most immediate need is for a vehicle for Bible distribution. “Our offices are very simple and spartan. We have one distribution van for our offices in Bagdad but we don’t have one for the Arbil (north) office,” says Nabil.
Nabil tells us another pressing need is for essentials like printers and basic office equipment because of their difficult working conditions and their limited budget.
But finally the biggest need, he says, is for prayer. “We always need prayer for our staff, who are working under these difficult circumstances and require tremendous strength.”
But despite all this, Nabil says he and his staff try to work hard with “joy and peace” in their hearts “to serve the Lord Jesus Christ”.
This steadfast faith is bearing fruit, and the Bible Society in Iraq is considered an important part of the Christian culture in the country.
Nabil says they’re providing several key Bible programmes for children and people in need as well as an important Bible-based trauma healing programme.
Persecution and physical hardship are also commonplace for Christians in Bangladesh.
A developing country, Bangladesh continually faces severe environmental issues, such as last month’s devastating monsoon rains which displaced millions of people, along with poverty and illiteracy.
In Bangladesh there is no war, but in many other ways, the situation is just as bleak as Iraq.
Only 0.6% of the vast 165 million population is Christian. Bangladeshi Christians tend to be poor and working in rural areas. They live in villages and are mostly farmers living hand to mouth. Their low income means they are not able to purchase Scriptures for their own use, yet this growing Christian community is hungry for the Word of God.
Bible Society is the only supplier of Scriptures to the churches in Bangladesh and they depend on them to provide Bibles for their committed, but unsupported, congregations.
“In addition to keeping the Christian community supplied with Scriptures, there is a great need to share the Bible with this huge number of people, who speak 46 different languages and have not yet heard the Word of God,” said acting Bangladesh Bible Society CEO Richmond Joydhor.
Like Iraq, the Bible Society’s greatest need in Bangladesh is for a vehicle. Bibles and biblical resources are too sensitive to post in Bangladesh so the only safe means of distribution is through private transportation to reach every corner of the country. They also need help with basic operational costs including equipment and staff training.