The recent bombings outside four Christian churches in Iraq have struck a tense nerve among the nation’s Christian population, according to an organization that aids the religiously persecuted.
In response to Sunday's explosions that struck in quick succession, killing three people and wounding nine, Todd Nettleton of Voice of Martyrs said there is a "sense of uneasiness" among the Christians.
"There is a sense of a threat level going up, a sense of uneasiness if you're there, if you're involved in Christian ministry," he said, according to Mission Network News.
The targeted explosions came nearly two months after the relatively peaceful Iraqi elections, where Shiite religious groups took the lion's share of seats in the new parliament. Reports indicate that the violence threatened to complicate efforts to form a broad-based government, which is in the favor of most political groups excluding the conservative Shiite coalition, according to Khalaf al-Alyan, a leader of the Sunni National Concord Front.
No group claimed responsibility for the church bombings in Baghdad and Kirkuk as well as a fifth bomb that had also exploded near the Vatican mission.
Lee DeYoung, vice president of Words of Hope, did not view the bombings as a direct attack only on Christians. He pointed out that, in the broader context, Christian churches have not been the lone victims of the violent attacks. Last year, he said, 700 mosques were bombed. While there is rising intimidation, the persons behind the attacks are a number of "troublemakers" rather than religious persecutors.
The violence, however, has caused a large decline in the Christian population in most Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, according to recent reports and persecution experts.
For those remaining behind, safety is an issue for the Christian population and prayer is the key supporter, said Nettleton, and the Gospel must be preached.
"I think we need to be praying for our brothers and sisters that are involved in ministry in Iraq," he said. "Pray for their safety, but we also need to pray that they will feel safe.
"We have work going on in Iraq and all of our people that are there are very conscious of their safety, they're very conscious of the issues that are there, but I think they go in knowing that it is a risk but understanding that it's an important thing to share the Gospel with people in Iraq."