The security situation for Christians in Iraq, which is 99 percent Muslim, has been deteriorating since the 2003 US-led invasion. As a result, believers have been fleeing the country for years. But national security and religious freedom took a dramatic turn for the worse in June 2014, when Islamic State (IS) militants seized vast swathes of territory.
IS targets anyone who does not adhere to its extremist Islamist ideology, but Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities, as well as Shia Muslims, are particularly at risk. IS has committed horrific violence against minorities – expelling them from their homelands, raping and enslaving women and children, and killing community members. Some of the areas taken over by IS remain under the group’s control.
Iraq was home to the ancient Sumerian civilisation, who farmed the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The territory was later part of the Ottoman Empire for almost four centuries, until Britain seized control during the First World War. The country became an independent monarchy in 1932, but the regime was overthrown by a military coup in 1958. A second coup installed the Ba’ath party five years later, and President Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979. He ruled the country through its war with Iran in the 1980s and the first Gulf War before finally being toppled by a US-led coalition in 2003. The power vacuum that followed led to years of violent attacks by different groups.
Iraq has long suffered sectarian tensions, with the country’s isolated pockets of population resulting in regionalism and ethnic division. The Kurdish ethnic minority were persecuted under Saddam Hussein, and distrust between the Shia majority and the large Sunni minority intensified during and after his rule. Thousands of vulnerable Iraqis who fled the IS onslaught are now living in refugee camps in the autonomous Kurdistan region.
Arabic, Kurdish, Turkmen, Assyrian, Armenian
- Pray for safety and freedom for Iraqi citizens living in areas still controlled by IS, and pray that these areas will be liberated.
- Pray for all Iraqis who have been forced to flee their homes over recent decades, asking the Lord to provide for them and that they will be able to return home and live in safety.
- Pray for stable government in Iraq and for peace between the country’s many different groups of people.