Iraq, Middle East
Political Leader: President Jalal Talabani
Religions: Islam 96.9%, Christianity 1.6%, Other 1.5%
Persecution Ranking: No. 21
Number of Terrorist Groups: 74
Acts of Terrorism: 8,494; Casualties: 22,362
Percent of Corruption: 81%
% of People in Poverty: Not Ranked
The Republic of Iraq, usually known as Iraq, is a country in the Middle East spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert. It shares borders with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the west, Syria to the northwest, Turkey to the north, and Iran to the east. It has a very narrow section of coastline at Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf. There are two major flowing rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates. These provide Iraq with agriculturally capable land and contrast with the desert landscape that covers most of the Middle East. Iraq is comparable in size to the U.S. state of California. The capital city, Baghdad, is in the center-east. Iraq's rich history dates back to ancient Mesopotamia.
Since an invasion in 2003, a multinational coalition of forces, mainly American and British, has occupied Iraq. The invasion has had wide-reaching consequences: increased civil violence, political breakdown, the removal and execution of former president Saddam Hussein, and national problems in the development of political balance, economy, infrastructure, and use of the country's huge reserves of oil.
Iraq has remained at the center of the U.S. war on terror with the Iraqi government and the coalition has battled Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and affiliated terrorist organizations. Meanwhile, insurgent groups have been fighting against Coalition Forces (CF), and militias and death squads have increasingly engaged in sectarian violence.
The Iraqi government has organized conferences involving tribal and religious leaders, politicians, and civil society organizations to counter support for terrorist organizations and to promote dialogue between Iraq’s ethnic and religious groups in an effort to decrease violence. Tribal leaders in Ramadi, a volatile city in Anbar province, have banded together and pledged to fight against AQI instead of the coalition.
Neighboring countries, specifically Iran, have continued to actively smuggling weapons, people, materials, and money to terrorist, insurgent and militia groups inside Iraq.
Although Iraq is a proven ally in the U.S. war on terror, Iraq’s developing security and armed forces will require further training and resources before they can effectively address the terrorist groups already operating within their borders.
Iraq is comprised of 96.9% Muslims and only 1.6% of the population is Christians.
Challenges for Christians:
Iraq is ranked No. 21 among nations that are the worst persecutors of Christians based on Open Doors 2007 “World Watch List.” Although the constitution recognizes Islam as the official religion and states that no law may be enacted that contradicts the established provisions of Islam, it also guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religious belief and practice.
There have been reports of Islamic extremists kidnapping Christians, including at least nine priests, for ransom. On July 17, 2006, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad and released after two days. On August 15, 2006, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad. He was reportedly tortured and released after a month. On September 16, 2006, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad and released two days later. On October 11, 2006, Assyrian priest Father Paulos Iskender was kidnapped and beheaded in Mosul one week later. He was reportedly targeted in retaliation for statements that the Pope Benedict XVI made in September 2006. On November 19, 2006, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad. He was released after nine days. On November 26, 2006, Protestant clergyman Elder Munthir Al-Saqa from the National Presbyterian Church in Mosul was abducted after leading a Sunday Service at his church that day. He was found dead on November 29. The kidnappers reportedly demanded $1 million in ransom from ElderMunthir's family using his mobile telephone. On December 4, 2006, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad and released after six days. On May 19, 2007, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad and freed after two days. On June 6, 2007, Chaldean priest Hani Abdel Ahad and five other Christians were kidnapped in Baghdad. The five Christians were released after a day, while Father Hani was released in good condition on June 17, 2007. The Chaldean Church confirmed that the kidnappers demanded ransom but declined to comment on the amount. Christian leaders inside and outside of the country reported that members of their Baghdad community, especially in the district of Dora, received threat letters demanding that Christians leave or be killed.
- Pray that Al Qaeda in Iraq and affiliated terrorist organizations will be thrown into confusion, and will not be able to regroup, recruit, or have the capacity to be disruptive. Pray that the demonic forces that are using the terrorists like puppets will be toppled, and that the people will be set free to worship the Lord. Pray that their leaders will experience conversion to Christianity. (1 Timothy 2:1–4)
- Pray for religious tolerance. Pray especially against the work of extremists who should be labeled terrorists and dealt with by governmental authorities accordingly. (Proverbs 11:21)
- Current Iraqi law actually allows Christians to worship freely. Unlike many Muslim countries, Christian holidays and festivities, such as Christmas, are celebrated in Iraq. Pray that a new government will not only maintain these things, but also enforce such freedoms.
- There is a small but growing number of Kurdish Christians in the north of Iraq. Some have been martyred for following Jesus. Pray that these Christians would remain strong and united.
- Pray for the immediate and ongoing protection of Iraqi Christians.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, Wikipedia, Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Open Doors, The World Factbook