Main Source of Persecution: Islamic Extremism
Since the early 2000s, the situation in Iraq has been deteriorating. This escalated in June 2014, when Islamic State (IS) invaded many parts of northern Iraq. They implemented strict Islamic rules and are responsible for most of the violence against Christians. Iraq sits second on the 2016 World Watch List.
Christianity on the verge of extinction
Christians have been in Iraq for almost 2,000 years, however the church is currently on the verge of extinction. During Saddam Hussein’s reign (1979-2003), people groups, including Christians, were forcibly removed from their homes and moved around the country. After the 2003 US-led invasion, persecution continued, with anti-Western (and anti-Christian) attitudes increasing.
Impossible to be a Christian under Islamic State
Violence from Islamic extremist groups has increased, especially from IS. In areas under IS rule, it is impossible to have any church life or publicly proclaim to be a Christian. Public gatherings that are not organised by IS are forbidden and all women are forced to wear a full veil (niqab). Being a convert from Islam to Christianity is like a death warrant in IS controlled territory.
Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) face pressure from community and family for converting to Christianity. They risk being threatened and abandoned by their families for the shame it brings and are often discriminated by their communities. Iraqi law forbids Muslims from converting to other religions.
In the early 1990s there were 1.5 - 2 million Christians in Iraq. Now there are only an estimated 250,000 Christians left, with 130,000 displaced because of IS.
- For believers living in regions ruled by IS; pray that their faith would be strengthened and that God would use them as light in this darkness.
- For the thousands of Internally Displaced People (IDP) who have fled because of IS. Praise God that he is using His church to reach out to the suffering and lost.
- That the gospel of Jesus Christ would be revealed to members of Islamic State; that they would repent and turn to Christ.