15

Iraq

Iraq

World Watch List Rank 15
World Watch List Score 76/100
Leader President Barham Salih
Population 40.4 million I 202,000
Main Religion Islam
Government Federal Republic
WWL Rank in 2019 13
Persecution Level Very High Persecution

Iraqi society is becoming more Islamic and corruption in the country has led to Christians losing their land and homes. Despite cities being liberated from the Islamic State, thousands of fighters remain in Iraq. Whilst it has been safe for some Christians to return home, many have struggle to stay due to lack of jobs. Traditional and evangelical churches have been divided for many years. However, some church leaders have said the Islamic State helped unify the church.

PERSECUTION IN IRAQ

One day, Faiez was a government worker in Mosul. The next, he was on the run with his family, fleeing Islamic State (IS) extremists. The militant group had told them that they must pay a high tax or face the sword if they would not convert to Islam. As the family went through an IS checkpoint, everything was taken from them, including their 9-year-old son's pocket money.

"My son was crying and shouting the whole time," says Faiez. "He thought he would never see me again."

Iraq has been home to followers of God for thousands of years. Abraham was from the region we now call Iraq. Mosul is the current name for the city of Nineveh, described in the book of Jonah. In the 1990s, Iraq was home to 1.2 million Christians.

Now, just an estimated 250,000 Christians remain. Since the US-led invasion of Iraq, anti-Western (and by association anti-Christian) sentiments have grown, and Islamic extremism has been strengthened by the civil war in neighbouring Syria. This has led to IS declaring their 'caliphate' (Islamic state) in north-west Iraq and parts of Syria.There are few Christians lefts in IS-controlled parts of Iraq. IS has forbidden public gatherings that are not organised by them, and churches have been demolished or turned into jails, stables and Islamic centres. The punishment for breaking the strict laws enforced by IS range from cutting off hands to public executions.

Many Christians have fled to the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. The church in Kurdistan has been reaching out to refugees fleeing IS; many provide refugees with shelter, food, medicines and other essentials. Father Daniel, who runs activities for children in a refugee camp in Erbil, says "I hope that these kids are going to have a new life without any wars, to live in peace."

However, even in areas of Iraq that aren't controlled by IS, society appears to be growing more Islamic, making life more difficult for Christians. Christian women in Baghdad and Basra have been forced to veil themselves in order to feel safe outside of their homes, and there has been a greater pressure for Christians to observe Ramadan.

Iran also exherts increasing influence within Iraq, and Muslim-background beleivers who live close to the border with Iran have reported being monitored by the Iranian secret service.

HOW WE HELP

Open Doors has been working with local partners and churches in Iraq for over 20 years to support the church through:

  • Providing trauma training and biblical training for church leaders and Muslim-background believers
  • Crisis relief - Open Doors partners are currently providing around 15,000 families with relief aid
  • Socio-economic development projects such as microloans for displaced people
  • Distributing Bibles and Christian literature and supporting Kurdish translations
  • Structural aid such as funding church repairs/equipment.

PRAY FOR IRAQ

  • Give thanks that some displaced believers are able to go home; pray for wisdom and faith for those who can’t
  • For Jesus to be evident in the lives of church leaders and that they will be good shepherds to new believers
  • For Open Doors partners helping to rebuild homes and create jobs for displaced believers.

 

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