What does persecution look like in Iraq?
The Christian community continues to rebuild and restore as it heals from the horrors of the Islamic State group. Plus, Turkish and Iranian airstrikes continue in some parts of Iraq, impacting Christian communities.
The historic Christian communities in Iraq also face issues with persecution and discrimination, particularly from Islamic militant groups and non-Christian leaders. In places where they are the significant minority, like central and southern Iraq, Christians often do not publicly display Christian symbols, as it can lead to harassment or mistreatment at checkpoints, universities, workplaces or governmental offices. Christians from both historic and newer denominations can face discrimination from the government. Any outspoken Christian group can also be accused of blasphemy if it's deemed it is sharing the gospel with Muslims.
Finally, anyone who converts from Islam will likely face intense pressure from their families and communities. They can be threatened, abused, lose family members, pressured or even killed. Conversion can have practical consequences as well, including loss of inheritance and lack of opportunity.
Christians who have converted from Islam are most at risk, as well as believers in the south and central regions (who tend to be converts).
“I dream that Iraq’s Christian youth accomplish their dreams and that they will be more resilient so that they can work on preserving their existence. Now our existence is threatened. We are working so hard to preserve it. My big dream is that the youth will stay, that they become the salt and light of this country. We really need them in the future to lead our community into a better place."Bishop Daniel, a church leader in northern Iraq
What has changed this year?
Violence rose, making an already difficult place for Christians an even harder place to follow Jesus. Additionally, parts of Iraq that had traditionally been more tolerant of conversion have become more dangerous for anyone wishing to leave Islam to follow Jesus. Aside from these factors, the situation in much of Iraq remains difficult. Christians in all areas live under pressure because they follow Jesus, and many church communities continue to deal with the fallout of the Islamic State group's reign of terror. The risk remains very high for all who claim the name of Jesus in Iraq.
Open Doors' local partners strengthen the church in Iraq with training, trauma care, the delivery of Bibles and Christian books, livelihood projects and microloans, help to rebuild homes and churches, and crisis relief.
How can you pray for Iraq?
- Pray for Christians and churches who are victims of discrimination in Iraq. Ask God to help them persevere through unfair treatment and to change the hearts of their persecutors.
- Praise God that rebuilding continues in historically Christian communities in northern Iraq. Ask Him to help churches and Christians continue to deepen their roots in Iraq.
- Pray for Open Doors’ work supporting trauma care in Iraq. So many Iraqi Christians carry deep wounds from the years of ISIS. Ask God to bless this ministry.
Dear God, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq. They risk so much and experience so much discrimination and pressure all because they follow You. We can't imagine what it's like to try to recover from the horrors of the Islamic State group—and we ask that Your healing Spirit remain in the midst of Your people. Please God, bring refreshment and hope to our family in Iraq. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.