Iraq (MNN) — Iraq was recently called out for “engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom.” In a new report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended Iraq for the US State Department’s Special Watch List.
Iraq’s political scene relies heavily on sectarianism, favoring Shia Muslims. Meanwhile, Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and Yazidis are among the minority groups that are often ostracized in society and even face persecution.
Samuel with Redemptive Stories says in Iraq, “The number of ethnic Christians continues to deteriorate and reduce as many of them are trying to find ways out to Western countries. Yazidis are still reeling from the genocide. You have so many other minority groups.
“Meanwhile, with the borders that were drawn a long time ago, you still have so many Sunni and Shia that are trying to figure out a way to live together and to interact with one another, particularly on a political level, and we don’t have any great examples of that.”
Redemptive Stories empowers local believers in Jordan to provide Christ’s hope and break poverty cycles through community programs, business development, and refugee outreach.
“Jordan is a peaceable country, but primarily because of the fact that it is 98% Sunni Muslim. We don’t have Shia here to deal with and to interact with and to try to find a way to live at peace. But meanwhile, Iraq is one of the most diverse countries in our region (if not the most diverse), and because of that, it continues to create ongoing religious and sectarian tensions that are still under the surface.”
Samuel says the ministry has connected with church leaders in Iraq for support and encouragement. “This week, I’ve been trying to discuss with various evangelical church leaders as they’ve been looking at, ‘Okay, we have these programs in our community. We want to expand. We want to grow. How do we look at these as legitimate opportunities to reach out to our overall community?’”
In addition to religious differences, there are also ethnic and language barriers between minority groups in Iraq.
“Many of the churches, as you can imagine, are located in large cities across Iraq — places like…Baghdad and Erbil and Duhok in the north. In many cases, they’re surrounded by some of these ethnic minorities.”
Samuel says Redemptive Stories is “working with these churches trying to say, ‘Okay, maybe you need to raise up leaders that already speak this language. Maybe you need to look at opportunities to break down some of the barriers that exist between you and the host community that you’re living in or the minority groups that are around you so that you can really seek and engage and be salt and light to them.”
Please pray for persecuted Christians and churches in Iraq to be bold witnesses for the Gospel. Ask the Lord to open ministry doors into unreached people groups and communities.
Samuel also encourages, “Stay engaged! There are articles that can be read. There are organizations that are constantly talking about opportunities to invest and to engage in Iraq and across the Middle East.”
Header photo courtesy of Levi Meir Clancy via Unsplash.