There are about 175,000 Christians in Iraq – a tiny percentage of the 41.5 million people living in Iraq.
What does persecution look like in Iraq?
After years of violence, an uncertain peace has come to Iraq – but 2020 saw recurrent violent protests and the instability in Iraq is a catalyst for the ongoing persecution of Christians.
Christians from a Muslim background often keep their faith secret, because of the pressure and threats they are likely to receive from extended family members, clan leaders and the wider society. Christian converts risk losing inheritance rights or the right to marry – and they are not allowed to marry Christians, as the law still considers them Muslim.
Islamic extremists remain active in Iraq, attacking and kidnapping Christians. The government also discriminates against Christians in various contexts, from the workplace to check points. Blasphemy laws can also be used against those who try to spread the gospel.
Christians from a Muslim background are most vulnerable to attack and other forms of persecution in Iraq.
“In this crisis we are once again reminded how weak we are as human beings and how much we need the Lord’s salvation."Father Ammar
What has changed compared to last year?
Persecution faced in public and private life has not changed significantly, but the level of violence faced by Christians has increased sharply in the past year – which is largely the reason that Iraq has risen in ranks from number 15 to number 11 in the World Watch List. This is due to more reports of churches being closed after attacks by Turkey in northern Iraq, and a slight increase in the number of Christians who were abducted.
Open Doors works through local partners and churches to support Christians in Iraq through Bible distribution, various forms of training, emergency and crisis relief, and microloans and livelihood projects for long-term self-reliance.
How can you pray for Iraq?
- Pray for a breakthrough in Iraq and an end to the waves of violence. Ask the Lord to put peace into the hearts of Christians – and those who persecute them.
- Pray that God would turn the hearts of Iraq’s leaders to Him. Pray that they will be given wisdom to lead their country with righteousness and mercy.
- Praise God for the amazing opportunities that people experience when it comes to sharing the gospel. Pray for a holy thirst and hunger among the people of Iraq for God.
Father God, thank You for Your eternal and total love for all Iraqis. Please bring peace and stability to a country that has suffered cycles of violence for so long. Show Iraqi Christians the truth of their identity in You, and give them opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ with their families, communities and friends. Equip them to be the light of hope in their country.