OVERVIEW: The Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish people groups that compose the majority of modern-day Iraq have been in conflict with each other for centuries. In recent years, and especially at the hands of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), tens of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee the country, leaving a small but bold and faithful remnant behind. For many of these Iraqi Christians, much of their day-to-day life is focused on survival and decisions about their future. After the 2014 ISIS invasion, Christians from around the region and around the world visited Iraq to bring relief and to encourage those who remained. Many have rejected Islam and become open to Christ for a variety of reasons, including the corruption and violence of both Sunnis (ISIS) and Shiites (Iraq’s new government, backed by Iran). These circumstances provide a unique window of opportunity to share the gospel with Iraqis searching for hope, truth and justice. Violence by ISIS has also led to a revival, as many traditional Christians have come to saving faith and become bold witnesses for Christ.
MAJOR RELIGION: Iraq’s population is divided between Shiite and Sunni Islam. Iraq is home to the second-largest population of Shiite Muslims, after Iran. Iraq’s Christian population has suffered severely at the hands of Islamists, decreasing from more than 1.2 million to less than 300,000 since the fall of the Ba’ath Party’s rule in 2003.
PERSECUTOR: Christian converts from Islam are abused and rejected by their families. In addition, they may be killed or persecuted by tribe members, government authorities or extremist groups.
WHAT IT MEANS TO FOLLOW CHRIST IN IRAQ: Northern Iraq is home to a sizable population of Christians, who are able to worship freely. Most of these Christians are from the ancient faith traditions that trace their roots back to the first century A.D. Christian converts face extreme pressure from their families, and some parts of Iraq are much more difficult for Christians than others.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: ISIS and other Islamist groups destroyed every copy of God’s Word that they found or captured, but because of the work of Bible societies and missions organizations, including VOM, more Bibles have been distributed since the rise of ISIS than destroyed. Today, the average Christian in Iraq can, with a bit of effort, find a copy of the Bible. Several formats are available, including audio Bibles and children’s Bibles.
VOM WORK: VOM distributes Bibles in several cities, including audio Bibles for the illiterate and Bibles in minority languages. Additionally, we support thousands of displaced Christians through local churches. Bible translation into minority Kurdish dialects is ongoing.
President Fuad MASUM (since 24 July 2014);
CIA World Factbook
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