World Watch List: 15
Leader: Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi
Population: 40.4 million
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Parliamentary Democracy
Source of Persecution: Islamic Oppression
In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Iraq through:
- Bible and Christian literature distribution
- Biblical, trauma counselling, and leadership training
- Socio-economic development
- Structural aid
- Emergency aid relief
”After the recent crisis, the church community is traumatized and dispersed. Many Iraqi Christians, even leaders, have left the country. Going back to how things were is not possible. We need to make a new start with those who stayed, giving them new hope.”
– Shefa (pseudonym), Open Doors’ partner in Iraq
Source of persecution: Islamic oppression / Organised crime and corruption
Christians continue to leave
Out of the 18 provinces in Iraq, only five have Christians living in them officially. Christians have left the other provinces over the years, other than small numbers of secret believers from a Muslim background. Since the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Christian population in Iraq has dwindled from a million to only 200,000 today. Sadly, there are many Christians still hoping and preparing to leave Iraq, especially the youth, due to the continued lack of security and hope for a good future. Violence against Christians remains – attacks, abductions, and even murders are still taking place.
Many families who were forced to flee their homes by IS have been able to return to the Nineveh Plain and begin to rebuild their lives and communities. However, some of the houses of those who fled to escape IS have been illegally occupied.
Violent Islamic militancy is still a problem in Iraq. Radical groups continue to seek a religious cleansing of the country and aim to make it purely Islamic. Although the Islamic State group (IS) has lost territory in Iraq, its ideology remains and has influenced society. Shia militias who helped drive out IS have also jumped in the power vacuum, with support from neighbouring Iran.
The society in central and south Iraq is more Islamic than in the north. Christians in these areas are careful when practising or speaking about their faith, even to their children, to avoid accusations of blasphemy or unwanted attention. Christian children face discrimination and have to attend Islamic lessons at school.
Christians from Muslim backgrounds often keep their faith a secret – leaving Islam is seen as a huge source of shame, and they may be attacked by family members or others in the community if their new faith is discovered. Beatings, torture, expulsion from home, forced to marry Muslim men (for women), and losing custody of their children are very possible consequences.
- Many Christians in Iraq continue to feel hopeless and powerless due to the difficult living conditions, unemployment, and the lack of opportunities for the youth. Many families are leaving the country. Pray that God will give these people, especially the youth, hope and that they will stand strong in their land.
- For church ministries and leaders in Iraq. Despite their difficulties they stand strong to proclaim and glorify Jesus’ name. Pray that they will continue to have grace and strength from God to keep on doing the work.
- For unity in Iraqi church, particularly across all denominations, and also for the community development work that some of the churches are undertaking.