A large proportion of Iraq’s remaining Christian population now lives in Iraqi Kurdistan. The ethnic cleansing and conquest of Mosul and the Plains of Nineveh (the historic centre of Iraqi Christianity) by Islamic State (IS) militants in 2014 caused huge numbers of Christians to flee to Erbil in the east or Dohuk in the north, the two largest cities of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The very few who remained, and those who have tried to return to their homes since the area was liberated from IS control, face an uncertain future, in a country led by a fragmented Shia government, not supported by many minority Sunnis. Many Christians’ homes in this area were occupied by IS, some were destroyed and others fraudulently sold, so many families have nothing to return to. Furthermore, the brief IS occupation has created an ongoing “culture of hate” amongst Muslims towards Christians.
In June and July 2020, a Turkish air campaign against the Kurdish PKK fighters inflicted terror on civilians, whether Kurdish or Assyrian (i.e. Christians). Zakho district in Dohuk Province is home to around 12,000 Christians in about 20 villages. The airstrikes emptied nine of the eleven Christian villages in the sub-district of Darkar and left the agricultural land burnt. Hundreds of Christians were forced to flee, many of them people who had already fled from their homes in the Plains of Nineveh in 2014.
It is estimated that around 75% of Iraq’s Christian population (around 1.5 million believers in 1990) have left the country altogether in the last 30 years, due to anti-Christian hostility and violence which began after the 1990-91 Gulf War and intensified after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
Ask the Lord to protect and strengthen Iraqi Christians who feel unsafe in their homeland. Pray that God will guide those who are displaced as to where to settle down. Pray that their community and the Iraqi government will enable a Christian heartland to be re-established in Iraq.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet