Since 2003, Islamist groups have stepped up persecution of religious minorities in Iraq, causing mass emigration of the ancient Christian confession, whose presence in Iraq pre-dates the Arabs by centuries. Christians suffer from the anti-Western atmosphere in the country and are seen as collaborators with Westerners. As Western influence in the country dwindles with the pulling out of many of their forces, extremists take their chance to terrorize Christians and force them out of the country.
The latest constitution says that no law can be passed that contravenes Islam, so guarantees of religious freedom are not particularly trustworthy. Registration of new churches is difficult.
Persecution has become particularly ferocious in recent years. Bomb attacks on churches in December 2009 caused as many as half of Mosul’s Christian population to flee. A terrorist attack on the Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad at the end of October 2010 killed 58 Christians and injured at least 60. Suspected Islamist militants detonated 11 bombs in Christian suburbs across Baghdad in November, targeting shops and homes. At least five Christians were killed and 33 injured. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled Baghdad and other southern portions of the country, including the Biblical area known as Babylon that is dominated by Shi’a Muslims.
About 334,000 Christians remain in Iraq, less than half of their number in 1991. The violence has caused hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people, both Muslim and Christian, to leave the country, and many more are displaced inside Iraq, particularly in Kurdistan.
- Pray for a stable democratic government in Iraq that respects the rights of all Iraqis.
- Pray for protection for Christians during this time of upheaval and danger.
- Pray for ministry opportunities for churches and Christian relief organizations working in Iraq.