How many Christians are there in Iraq?
There are 202,000 Christians in a population of over 40 million – just under half a per cent of the population.
Why are Christians persecuted in Iraq?
Islamic extremism is still a problem in Iraq. Although the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) have lost territory in Iraq, their ideology remains. Many of the militants have simply blended back into the general population, and the Shia militias who helped drive out IS also persecute Christian believers.
What’s life like for Christians in Iraq?
Coronavirus is having a significant impact on the Middle East. Many believers, who were already vulnerable, have lost their jobs and have no money for food. They are often last in line when official food and aid is distributed - discriminated against because they follow Jesus.
In recent years, with your prayers and support, many Christians have been able to return to their communities after fleeing to avoid IS and other Islamic militants. People like Bashar, who had to leave behind his successful factory in Mosul when IS came. He and his family were threatened, and some relatives were even kidnapped and killed.
“The situation was too difficult, especially for our wives and daughters,” remembers Bashar. “We left our houses, factories and everything. All we could take were our clothes.” God kept Bashar and his family strong. “I teach my children that we must trust God in everything,” he says. “I can trust God in all times, whether good or bad.”
Now, thanks to your gifts and prayers, Bashar has been able to open and expand a shop with a microloan provided by Open Doors partners.
But violence against Christians is far from over. Attacks, abductions and murders are still happening, and Christians from Muslim backgrounds are particularly vulnerable. They often have to keep their faith a secret, for fear of reprisals from their families and communities. Rebuilding has been particularly complicated with the devastating setbacks of the pandemic.
Speaking of coronavirus, one leader explains, “It’s a big crisis here. We don’t have a good health system, so prevention is the only way to protect ourselves.” Not being able to meet physically has been hard for believers, but they are adapting - and growing. “The Lord taught us to go into our rooms and pray," another leader says. "With the current crisis our people are coming closer to God and are more committed to read the Bible and pray in their own home.”
How can I help Christians in Iraq?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Iraq. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works through local partners and churches to support Christians in Iraq through Bible distribution, various forms of training, emergency relief and practical support for displaced believers, and microloans for long-term self-reliance.
Lord Jesus, we praise You that the number of Christians attacked or killed decreased in 2019, and pray that this trend would continue. Please enable Iraqi Christians to return safely to their homes and communities, and give them the strength and hope to rebuild for the future.