Iraq (MNN) – Iraq’s young people have had enough, so they took to the streets to let the government know they’re unhappy. The response was brutal.
After repeated clashes with security forces since October 1, the toll is now at 15,000 injured and over 300 dead. Samuel* is a spokesman for Redemptive Stories, a Christian ministry reaching several countries in the Middle East, including Iraq. He says there was initially a lot of hope after the fall of Saddam Hussein and the restructuring of the government. After all, “In terms of natural resources, you have one of the most wealthy countries in the world.”
Yet its people struggled. In 2011, the Arab Spring uprising began, and many felt empowered to speak up about their situation. Yet the fulfillment of promises never quite happened in Iraq. “I think that tension that they feel of being deprived of what their country has to offer has been building for many years. Now we see the result of that.”
Today, the frustration comes from the hijacked futures of young people who did what they thought they were supposed to do for success. Study hard, go to college, get a degree, get a job. For these adults, aged 20 to 35, unemployment is almost at 50-percent. “Many of them are like, ‘I’m trying to get married; I want to have a family; I want to move on to the next steps of my life, but I can’t, because I can’t get a job.'” For them, there is no future. Jobs are scarce, Samuel says. “Teachers, for instance: they have, in some provinces, a waiting list of 500 people in one little town, just even get hired on as a teacher.”
All of that adds to the tension, he explains. Then, “Throw in with that a lovely mix of severe corruption– payments, bribes—how you can make anything happen with a little extra money in your pocket, and how that system preys on the impoverished—and people are rising and speaking into the unjustness of their situation.”
Protestors initially called for more jobs and better infrastructure. Those demands soon grew to include new electoral laws and accounting from government leaders, starting with ‘cleaning the house.’ Not satisfied with anti-corruption demands, the calls for ouster soon included the Prime Minister, as well as a complete overhaul of the political system.
But will the protests make any difference? Getting a do-over when it comes to a government is a pretty tall order. Samuel agrees. “That which are they’re asking for it so large and so seemingly far-fetched from where they are right now, that I don’t know what simple steps the government could put in place that would enact real change that they would be happy with.”
Where is the Church?
He notes that “Iraq, the brokenness is at such a high level that I don’t know where they go, honestly. I mean, if you look at it, there seems very hopeless.”
Where is the Church amid the chaos? The Islamic State chased many Christians out of Iraq during the occupation, but some made their way back home. Today, they’re standing with their community against injustice, Samuel says. “What I think the Church is doing well right now is that they’re standing for justice. That reality is helping them in terms of the message of the Gospel that is going forth in Iraq.”
Plus, they’re finding other ways to be part of the solution by influencing government leaders. “We’re seeing things happen in relationships that we have in-country where God is working through that, that’s giving people favor in the community, particularly certain pastors that we know. It is giving them a platform to speak into the truth of the Gospel and how that can truly change hearts and then begin to change that which is broken in Iraq.”
Samuel will also be part of several meetings next week in Iraq. “Part of our intent while we’re going there is to sit down with some of the Christian leaders and other pastors that are there and then also sit with some of the governmental leaders that we have influence on and say, ‘What can we do to help you and to help change that which is broken in your country?'”
Find your place in the story
That’s not to say the outcome of the meeting will net instant results. After all, it is spiritual warfare, as well as a factional civil war, that created the mess Iraq faces now, Samuel says. “To look at it and say ‘We’ve just got to fix these five things’– there’s too many things to fix, so it needs to be an intervention of God.”
It’s a unique time for the followers of Christ in Iraq. While the riots sound terrible, it’s an opportunity unlike any before. Given what’s at stake in Iraq, Samuel says, “I was reminded today just of the need to pray into these things. When Christ says, ‘May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done’ in His prayer as he taught us to pray, I think that’s what we need to be praying right now for Iraq. The situation is so huge, and the brokenness is so big, and years and years of destruction and ruin of people’s lives and governmental systems and so much negativity.”
Headline image courtesy Marco Verch/TrendingTopics2019/Flickr/CC