World Watch: 16

President Abdul Rashid

How many Christians?
154,000 (0.4%)

Main threat
  • Islamic oppression

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How many Christians are there in Iraq?  

Iraq’s Christian population has dwindled considerably due to conflict and terrorism. An estimated 154,000 remain – just 0.4 per cent of the country’s 43.2 million population.

How are Christians persecuted in Iraq? 

Iraq’s Christian community continues to rebuild and restore as it heals from the horrors of so-called Islamic State. Turkish and Iranian airstrikes still continue in some parts of Iraq, impacting Christian communities in some regions of the country.

Any Christian who has converted from Islam will likely face intense pressure from their families and communities. They can be threatened, abused, lose family members, face forced marriage or even be killed in extreme circumstances. Conversion can have practical consequences as well, including loss of inheritance and lack of opportunity. 

The historic Christian communities in Iraq also face ongoing issues with persecution and discrimination, particularly from Islamic militant groups and non-Christian leaders. In places where they are the significant minority – like central and southern Iraq – Christians often do not publicly display Christian symbols, as it can lead to harassment or mistreatment at checkpoints, universities, workplaces or governmental offices. Christians from both historic and newer denominations can face discrimination from the government; any outspoken Christian group can also be accused of blasphemy if it’s deemed they are sharing the gospel with Muslims. 

Meet Bishop Daniel

“Our existence is threatened. I am working hard to preserve our existence.”


What’s life like for Christians in Iraq?

“Our existence is threatened. Many of the young people are only thinking of leaving Iraq,” says Bishop Daniel in Erbil. “My big dream is that the youth will stay. I am working hard to preserve our existence.”

This is a bold dream: after decades of war, political instability, economic ruin and the cruelty of the so-called Islamic State group, the idea of remaining in Iraq is unthinkable for many people. But God specialises in bold dreams. And the future of the church in Iraq depends on Iraqi youth deciding to stay to live for Jesus, even when it’s costly.

“Most of our activities in Iraq focus on bringing the hope of Christ to the lives of our young people,” Bishop Daniel continues. “So we have opened, and will open more, trauma healing centres. We also offer vocational training for young people to increase the possibility of finding job opportunities in Iraq. In addition to that, we’re doing leadership training; we are empowering our young leaders.”

Bishop Daniel knows firsthand the temptation to leave Iraq. He’s been offered several positions in other countries, but he’s always decided to stay. “I decided to have a role in rebuilding this country,” he says. “I am an example for all the young people. I always tell them, before you decide to leave the country, just try to think about this. You are going to lose so many things.”

Is it getting easier to be a Christian in Iraq? 

Iraq rose two places on the World Watch List this year, largely due to a rise in violence, making an already difficult place for Christians an even harder place to follow Jesus. Additionally, parts of Iraq that had traditionally been more tolerant of conversion have become more dangerous for anyone wishing to leave Islam to follow Jesus. Aside from these factors, the situation in much of Iraq remains very difficult. Christians in all areas live under pressure because they follow Jesus, and many church communities continue to deal with the fallout of the Islamic State group’s reign of terror. The risk remains very high for all who claim the name of Jesus in Iraq.

How can I help Christians in Iraq?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Iraq. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Open Doors local partners strengthen the church in Iraq with training, trauma care, the delivery of Bibles and Christian books, livelihood projects and microloans, help to rebuild homes and churches, and crisis relief.

please pray

Dear God, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq. They risk so much and experience so much discrimination and pressure all because they follow You. We ask that Your healing Spirit remain in the midst of Your people, particularly as they continue to heal from the trauma inflicted by so-called Islamic State. Please God, bring refreshment and hope to our family in Iraq and rebuild Christians’ churches, lives and communities. Amen.


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