Believers in Iraq face new challenges with fewer options

By August 21, 2020

Iraq (MNN) — Senior officials met in Washington this week to discuss the future of U.S.-Iraq ties. The in-person meetings are a follow-up to virtual sessions in June.

On Wednesday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who announced a $204 million humanitarian aid package and ongoing support. Meetings between Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and President Donald Trump took place yesterday.

Iraqi protests in Tahrir Square on October 25, 2019.
(Photo, caption courtesy of FPP via Wikimedia Commons)

Meanwhile, in Iraq, human rights groups voice concern over a sudden spike in activist killings. Anti-government protestors have lined Iraqi streets since October, only pausing when interrupted by COVID-19 lockdowns.

Six alleged assassination attempts so far this month have killed two protestors. “It seems that there is a well-programmed cleansing of activists who were influential in the last protest movement,” Ali al-Bayati, spokesman for the Iraqi Independent High Commission for Human Rights, told the AP.

All of this uncertainty and instability add to existing pressure on Iraqi Christians, a community struggling to stay in its homeland. During “the US invasion in 2003, there were somewhere between a million-and-a-half to two million Christians” living in Iraq, Greg Musselman with Voice of the Martyrs Canada says.

“With the war, that now is about 250,000 Christians. One of our partners is in northern Iraq, he’s telling us that the situation is so desperate and so dire,” he continues.

“Our brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq have seen so much violence, lost so many family members and friends, families have been separated as people have left the country. It’s just a horrible situation.”

For those wanting to leave Iraq, Beirut’s explosion earlier this month crossed Lebanon off the list. As described here, many Iraqi believers voiced concern and shock.

“The challenge facing our brothers and sisters in Christ is now where do they go? They’re in a very precarious situation,” Musselman says.

Hope remains

While all looks lost in Iraq, Musselman points to neighboring Iran as proof that hope remains. “Iran has, statistically, the fastest-growing Church in the world. In the middle of all the chaos and the problems with their government, corruption, and militant Islam, people are open,” he says.

Hope for a brighter tomorrow undergirds VOM Canada’s ongoing ministry. It supports the Iraqi Church through multiple initiatives, including media outreach, refugee ministry, Bible and food distribution, and trauma care.

Help Christians in Iraq through Voice of the Martyrs Canada.

(Graphic courtesy VOM Canada via Facebook)

“There are many [Christians who say], ‘You know what, I want to stay here because this is where we feel that God has placed us. We’re going to do what we need to do so that people can know Jesus,’” Musselman says.

“In the most desperate situations, people tend to be more spiritually hungry. We pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to draw people to Himself.”

Ask God to protect and strengthen Iraqi believers as they share the hope of Christ.



Header image depicts children walking through ruins of the old marketplaces in Shingal, Iraq, following the war with the Islamic State. (Photo, caption courtesy of Levi Clancy on Unsplash)