Year: 2019
World Watch List: 13
Score: 79
Leader: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi
Population: 39.3 million
Christian: 225,000
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
Source of persecution: Islamic oppression / Organised crime and corruption

Islamic State ideology still there
With the defeat of Islamic State (IS) in 2017, a number of displaced Christians have returned to their homes. However, there are many others who are still seeking a better life overseas as they do not have hope for a good future in Iraq. Even though IS is no longer a major problem, their ideology of an Islamic caliphate has influenced the local population. There are also other radical Islamic militants still active in the country, and they continue to harm and threaten Christians. Hate-speech and calls for social boycotts against Christians by Muslim leaders are common. Thousands of homes belonging to Christians who fled IS or other militant groups have been illegally seized by criminal groups, politicians, and religious leaders.

Almost extinct
Before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraq was home to one of the largest Christian communities of the Middle East. Christians have lived here for two millennia but are currently on the verge of extinction. They used to be tolerated more by the society, but opposition to their way of life has increased greatly in recent years. Due to the ongoing emigration of Christians, some churches are lacking leaders as church leaders are particularly at risk of persecution.

Persecution from their families
Believers from a Muslim background suffer most persecution from their extended families, clan leaders, and communities. They face beatings, torture, and being expelled from their homes. They keep their new faith a secret, as it might even cost them their lives.

Gender-specific persecution
In some parts of the country, even Baghdad, Christian women have to veil themselves like their Muslim counterparts, or they might be harassed, pelted with stones, kidnapped, or even killed. Female believers from a Muslim background face house arrest, sexual abuse, and death. Their families can impose a travel ban on them to prevent them from leaving the country, and they cannot marry male Christians.

Male believers find it a struggle to sustain their families. They are also at particular risk of receiving death threats or actually being killed for their faith.


  • Praise God that there are reports of many coming to Christ in the southern parts of Iraq. Pray that God will provide good shepherds for these new believers and satisfy their hunger to know Him.
  • For wisdom and clarity for displaced Christians who are still unsure about where they should live.
  • For pastors and priests ministering in Iraq, that they will have the grace and strength to be living examples of Christ to their flock, and also to their enemies.

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World Watch List

2019 Map