Iraqi government finally taking note of modern-day exodus

By February 26, 2014
(Image courtesy ALBAZ via Flickr)

(Image courtesy ALBAZ via Flickr)

Iraq (MNN) — Iraq is taking steps to preserve its Christian heritage in light of a modern-day exodus, according to a recent al-Monitor report. Iraq’s Ministry of Education is reportedly adding Syriac and Christian religious classes to its public school curriculum.

Voice of the Martyrs Canada spokesman Greg Musselman isn’t sure the offer is attractive enough to keep Iraqi believers in-country.

“Is it too little, too late? Probably so,” he states.

According to al-Monitor’s Amal Sakr, “The initiative appears aimed at satisfying the Christian denominations in Iraq, and to illustrate that religious teaching is not limited to just one sect.” However, a few problems surround the Syriac courses.

One of the initiative’s goals is to preserve the ancient Syriac language. Syriac, along with Chaldean, was one of the first Church’s native tongues. However, few Christian families are fluent in Syriac today and struggle to balance historical importance with relevance to their daily lives.

This balancing act is present for Iraqi believers on more than one level.

“Yes, we want to preserve our history and our culture, but on the other hand, just surviving and trying to get through the day is really paramount,” notes Musselman.

“Most Iraqi Christians–unless they have a firm conviction that that’s where God wants them to be–are leaving.”

Thousands have already fled the persecution that’s keeping Iraq at #4 on the Open Doors World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most severe. Iraq’s Christian population has decreased by 75% within the past 11 years, dropping from around 1.5 million to less than 300,000 believers.

Some analysts say there may be no Christians left in Iraq within ten years.

“This whole region of the world, the cradle of Christianity, is really suffering quite badly,” Musselman says. “This phenomenon of Christians leaving the Middle East is not only Iraq, but other places like Syria, even Lebanon, [and] Egypt, of course.”

The Ministry of Education’s initiative might not be enough to keep Iraqi believers from packing their bags, but deep-rooted convictions are stopping the flight of a precious few.

“These are devoted, dedicated people, but to be honest, they’re few and far-between,” Musselman notes. “Only the most devoted ones [are] saying, ‘We will stay. We believe Jesus has called us here.'”

In light of a report like this, what can you do? “Continue to pray,” Musselman responds.

“We can’t ever minimize the importance of prayer. Then on top of that, we also need to find practical ways to let [believers] know…that they’re not forgotten.”

VOM Canada is supporting the Remnant Church in Iraq with things like microloan projects and radio programs. While specifics can’t be disclosed for security reasons, you can hear how the Church impacted one former Muslim here.

“[There are] all these amazing stories of how God is drawing people to Himself,” Musselman says, noting that many are turning to Christ despite persecution.

Ask the Lord to strengthen believers who are committed to stay in Iraq and spread the Gospel. Pray for softened hearts and safe opportunities to share the hope of Christ.

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