Two young Assyrians fled with their families from Islamic State’s held Mosul to Koysinjaq, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo: christiaantriebert
6/25/20 (Voice of the Persecuted) IRAQ – Population: 40.4 million, Christians 200,000 thousand
Many Iraqi Christians are still recovering from the brutal reign of ISIS, and for some believers, that threat has not fully diminished. Although ISIS has lost territory in Iraq, their ideology remains and has influenced society. Many of the militants have simply blended back into the general population. Another important driver of persecution are Shia militias who helped drive out ISIS and have gained authority and territory in the power vacuum left after ISIS was defeated.
Additionally, Christians are dealing with a drastic reduction in their population since ISIS began their attacks, along with trauma for those believers who have stayed in their country. Iraq remains very tribal, which can also mean significant pressure for believers who come from Muslim tribes—conversion to Christianity is seen as a rejection of heritage and family. Christians from Muslim backgrounds often keep their faith a secret since they may be attacked by family members or others in the community if their new faith is discovered.
In central and southern Iraq, Christians often do not publicly display Christian symbols, such as a cross, as this can lead to harassment or discrimination at checkpoints, universities, government buildings and in workplaces. Even Christians in the Iraqi Kurdish Region (IKR) have reportedly removed the cross from their cars to avoid unwanted attention. Christians with a Muslim background experience most pressure from extended family and often keep their faith a secret to avoid threats from family members, clan leaders and the society around them. Converts to Christianity from Islam risk losing their inheritance rights and the right or means to marry. Openly leaving Islam leads to difficult situations throughout the country.
The 2019 edition of “Persecuted and Forgotten?”, a biennial study of the persecution of Christians around the world, warns that Christianity is disappearing from towns and cities in the faith’s ancient homeland. Despite the defeat of ISIS, the impact of genocide has led to the hemorrhaging of great numbers of Christians from the region, says the report.
There were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before 2003, but by mid-2019 that figure had fallen to well below 150,000; by some estimates the number of Christians there may have fallen as low as 120,000—a decline of more than 90 percent within a single generation.
The report, which covers the period 2017-2019, notes that the international community has shown unprecedented concern about the persecution of the region’s Christians. But the report charges that “governments in the West and the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway.”
06/22/2020 Over the weekend, the Turkish Air Force continued bombing NW Iraq, reportedly displacing many and killing up to five civilians. Turkey claims that some members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) are based in this area and that they were the target. However, several of the impacted villages are also home to Christian communities. Hundreds of Christian families who fled Mosul and the Nineveh Plains during the 2014 ISIS attacks now live in Zakho, one of the areas targeted by Turkey’s raids. Many of these Christians have been displaced once again.
Some of the dangers of the Iraqi Christian persecution and its people face:
o Islamization – Arabization – Kurdification
o Denominationalism and fragmentation
o Cultural and language loss through assimilation outside their homeland
- Pray for Christian political leaders and ask God to give them wisdom over their daily decisions. Pray they will listen to God’s voice and represent well the people they serve.
- Pray for NGOs to conduct training programs to led by local partner organization in the Nineveh Plains in the rest of Iraq. Pray for the future of these Christians, that the Lord will give them courage and strength to stand up to trials.
- Please continue to pray for the staff of the NGOs local partners in Iraq. They often travel across the country on dangerous roads. Ask the Lord to protect them from all dangers when they go out to spread the gospel among those hungering for Jesus.
- Pray for hope for the displaced Christian families who return to areas like Mosul. Very few Christians have returned to their cities and villages because the security situation remains unstable.
- Pray to the Lord to raise up pastors/missionaries as well as tent makers to encourage and minister to the discouraged Christians.
- Pray for the Lord’s comfort and grace to all who have lost loved ones in the attacks and that He would be close to the broken-hearted.
- Pray that the Lord will protect and strengthen the Christian background believers and to remain joyful under difficult circumstances.
- Pray that the Lord will open doors to evangelism and give believers courage and boldness to reach out to the lost.
- Pray that the Lord will appear to radical Muslims in their dreams and connect them with believers.
- Pray to the Lord that Christians love God so much that they can forgive and love their neighbors.
- Pray to the Lord that He will protect and raise up His church.
Again, we want to lift up persecuted witnesses for the Lord and pray for Leah Sharibu and Alice, pray that they will be set free. And also lift up pastor Wang Yi to be released from Prison and ask for the release for Anita, a Christian convert recently sentenced to 6 years in prison for sharing the Gospel in Iran
You are invited to join us on Thursday, June 25 in a prayer call for the persecuted church.
Andy, Persecution Watch Prayer Moderator
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What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own. With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.
On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.
Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!
NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers. Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. Since the passing of Brother Blaine Scogin, we thank you for your patience as we have transitioned into this new season. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.
Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.