Iraq (MNN) — Iraq’s security forces are struggling to contain the largest uprising since Saddam Hussein’s fall in 2003. The unrest prevented U.S. Vice President Mike Pence from meeting with Iraq’s prime minister in Baghdad over the weekend. Instead, the pair discussed protests and other issues by phone.
“He pledged to me that they would work to protect and respect peaceful protesters as … part of the democratic process here in Iraq,” Pence told reporters.
Failing infrastructure and government corruption sparked demonstrations in early October. The government’s responded with force, killing more than 300 people so far and injuring thousands. More than a dozen protestors were killed on Sunday in “one of the worst” days of violence since the movement began, an authority told Associated Press.
Middle East Concern’s Daniel Hoffman says protestors remain in the streets due, at least in part, to uprisings elsewhere in the region. Learn how Middle East Concern supports persecuted Christians in Iraq.
“These demonstrators, whether it’s in Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon, or Iraq, are encouraging each other, and are encouraged if they see that in one country significant changes happen in response to [the] demonstration.”
How do Iraq protests affect Christians?
Many Iraqi believers stand behind the movement, Hoffman continues. “There is a lot of support among Christians for the demonstrators,” he says.
“One of the reasons is, of course, a lot of Christians suffer just as much from these issues: mismanagement of the government, high unemployment, etc.”
Open Doors USA describes several drivers behind Iraq’s persecution in its annual World Watch List and accompanying dossier, including:
“The aim of staying in power whatever the cost has been a key issue in the central Iraqi government and is fed by the patronage system, corruption, and nepotism. This focus leads to failure in supporting a pluralistic society in which Christians (and other minorities) would feel truly welcome.”
Iraq’s leaders constantly fight among themselves for power. This creates an opportunity for militant groups to step in and seize territory, which holds significant meaning in the Middle East. It’s another reason why believers support protestors’ desire for a new government, Hoffman says.
“The weak government leads to a power vacuum that is filled by other groups, mainly armed groups, who use their power and their influence to push for their own benefits and their own aims.”
Hoffman points to the Nineveh Plain – an area he describes as “the heartland of Christian communities in Iraq” – as an example.
“The powerful armed, Shia groups that played an important part in the military defeat of the Islamic State in the area are now using their influence and their power, and the weak state presence in this area, to try and chase Christian communities out of their villages,” he says.
“There have been instances of them threatening church leaders, harassing Christian women, trying to intimidate people into selling their property…all with the aim of increasing their own presence in these villages and chasing Christians out.”
Pray believers will look to the Lord as their Provider and Protector. “We can also pray some of the changes that demonstrators are asking for will happen, that there will be a more just government,” Hoffman adds.
Pray for stability and peace in Iraq.
“At the moment, they (believers) see this lawlessness and they see these armed groups that are threatening them…and they ask themselves, ‘What is our future in this country…what is the future of our children in this country?’,” Hoffman says.
“For them to have more confidence in their future…is to feel more hopeful…that there will be a more stable society and a stable government that will enable them to stay and flourish and be a witness for Christ.”
Header image courtesy of Hassan Majed via Wikimedia Commons.