By RON SELAK JR.
Mark Hostetler, 31, of Orwell, left, and Travis Mansfield, 43, of Bazetta, pray Thursday at Cortland Trinity Baptist Church in Bazetta.
Tribune Chronicle / Ron Selak Jr.
As the religious persecution of Christians in Iraq and elsewhere worldwide worsens, several churches here Thursday met and prayed for their wellbeing.
The service at Cortland Trinity Baptist Church was held to ''weep for those who weep'' - Christians mistreated because of their religious beliefs as well as to pray for Muslims suffering at the hands of Islamic terrorists and for Israel's conflict with Hamas.
''Father, we are so glad tonight that we can come and be here to pray, to seek the God in heaven,'' said Dan Barker, pastor at Cortland Trinity Baptist Church. ''Our Heavenly Father, Lord, the body of Christ is hurting tonight. Our brothers and sisters are be persecuted immensely, so we're here to identify with them.''
Pastors from seven churches led dozens in prayer, some individually and some in groups, to answer a call made by the Rev. Canon Andrew of Baghdad, the vicar of St. George's Church in Baghdad, for prayers on behalf of the embattled Christian community in Iraq and elsewhere.
Recent reports indicate that the Islamic State (ISIS), a brutal jihadist group, has all but eliminated Christians from major cities in the north of Iraq, and now cells from the group are beginning to establish themselves in the capital city of Baghdad.
''We identify with their suffering the best we know how. God we pray that you'll just have your way in this service of prayer, that we be challenged, that we will be touched, that we will hear the call of the Holy Spirit to action, to commitment, to faith and most of all father, that hope will be with them,'' Barker said.
Among the voices that often melted together into seemingly one prayer for their fellow Christians was that of Mark Hostetler, who said prayer is a way to ''connect my heart with the Lord, which is right there with theirs (the persecuted Christians).''
It's a way he said he can help, being thousands of miles away from those being mistreated.
''There is nothing I can do but come before, join with people and say, 'Lord help,''' said Hostetler, 31, of Orwell, the director of outreach at Cortland Trinity Baptist Church.
Other pastors leading the people in prayer were John Weisman, pastor of Pleasant Valley Evangelical Church, Niles; Rick Oaks, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Warren; Dave Natale, pastor of Church at Warren; Everett Whiteside, pastor of Higher Praise Covenant Church, Warren; Dwight Dumas, pastor of Third Christian Church, Warren; James Holbrook, pastor Warren Revival Center; and Barker.