Local Missionaries in Iraq
Rocked by political unrest due to high levels of corruption and unemployment, Iraq is also still trying to recover from destruction to homes and basic services infrastructure from the invasion by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists from 2014 to 2017. Many people remain displaced in the country that is 95.8 percent Muslim.
About 1.4 percent of the population practices ethnic religions, and 1.3 percent of Iraq’s people identify as Christian. Of those, 49 percent are Orthodox, 41.9 percent Roman Catholic, and 0.2 percent evangelical.
Iraq’s various ethnic groups include Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandaeans and Circassians. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.
Amid the unrest and disruption of lives, local missionaries are finding unprecedented opportunities to share the gospel among the internally displaced and refugees from Syria and other countries. Barely able to keep up with requests for Scripture, they need assistance to purchase Bibles and New Testaments. They distribute these in outreaches on the street, in home visits, as they travel, and as they distribute aid to refugees and the displaced, with demand especially high during Christmas season outreaches.
Evangelistic events geared toward children provide opportunities to share the gospel with their parents as well. Local missionaries need funding to train youth leaders and other leaders, as well as disciples who need to be equipped to share their faith and plant house churches. Some of these churches are forming in refugee camps for Syrians. Workers also need support to cover monthly living expenses.
Local missionaries put in long hours meeting the needs of food, clothing, baby formula and other relief items for the internally displaced and for refugees. A mobile medical clinic provides health care to people who would never have access to such help, with workers also praying with patients and sharing the hope of the gospel.
Sources: Joshua Project, Wikipedia
How to Pray for
- Pray that Muslims putting their faith in Christ will be protected from opposition and will find new community in Christian fellowship.
- Pray for outreaches to Yazidis and Kurds and the growth of house churches planted in various outreaches.
- Pray that resources will become available to meet local missionaries’ physical and spiritual needs amid the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More stories from Iraq
A refugee from Syria told local missionaries in Iraq that he had dreamt of a group of Christians visiting his house and telling him pleasant things that he could not now recall. He said he was a Muslim officer in the Syrian army who had fled when enemy soldiers occupied his home. “I remember when I woke up, I had a wonderful peace and joy that I had never experienced before,” he told them. “Can you visit us at home?”
During a time of war, a Muslim who had learned about Christ through satellite TV programs had no one to answer his questions about Christianity, but after fighting ended he told a local missionary that when his city was being bombed, Jesus had visited him in a dream and given him a message.
A young man in Iraq, Sami, and his father were descended from multiple generations of historic Christians, but during occupation by Islamist militants they had been forcibly converted to Islam. Such converts have trouble showing loyalty to a new caliphate, often refusing to join the fight to establish and expand it. Both men were subjected to torture; Sami told native missionaries in Europe that his father died trying to save him from the militants.
The pope’s historic visit to Iraq in March presented massive security challenges, with all military and civil security forces taking stringent measures. Soldiers at checkpoints were instructed to seize the cargo of any transport vehicle, and before one major papal event they confiscated local missionaries’ carload of 1,000 Bibles. “The strange thing is that we met several people while walking in the streets carrying the same Bibles that we distribute, and when we asked them, they said that they got them from the checkpoint,” a ministry leader said.
A 30-year-old Kurdish woman was one of 6,000 Yazidis seized when ISIS militants invaded Iraq in 2014. Yazidi religion being especially despised by Muslim extremists, over the next three years she was sold to fighters of different factions who raped her and her daughters. When she was freed, her parents did not recognize her.