Long-term instability in Iraq and the region
Since 1980, Iraq has been a war zone. Four major conflicts—the Iran-Iraq war for eight years, the Kuwait war, the First Gulf War and the Iraq war—and the devouring of Iraqi land by ISIS in 2014 has left profound suffering amongst all Iraqis, and in particular Iraqi Christians. Collectively, Iraqis have faced for more than 35 years of war.
“It is no secret that hatred of minorities has intensified in certain quarters over the past few years. It is difficult to understand this hate. We are hated because we persist in wanting to exist as Christians. In other words, we are hated because we persist in demanding a basic human right.” -His Exc. Mgr. Bashar Matti Warda, C.SS.R., Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq
Situation of Christians: ongoing persecution and declining population
The safety of Christians drastically worsened since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Extremists in Iraq often targeted Christians and other religious minorities, such as Yezidis or Sabean Mandeans, who have been considered apostates or worse stand-ins for the West. This persecution has led to the rapid decline of minority populations in Iraq. “Thirteen years of war have had devastating long-term consequences for Iraqi society,” said Mark Lattimer, the executive director of Minority Rights Group International.
“The impact on minorities has been catastrophic. Saddam was terrible; the situation since is worse. Tens of thousands of religious and ethnic minorities have been killed and millions have fled for their lives.”-Mark Lattimer, executive director of Minority Rights Group International
For Christians, it has led to a particularly dire depopulation of ancient lands. In 2003, approximately 1.4 million Christians were in Iraq. By August 2014, 500,000, and one year later, in July 2015, less than 300,000 remain. It is estimated that only 250,000 Christians now remain in Iraq as of 2016. These figures show that over 13 years, Iraq has tragically lost 80 percent of its 2,000-year-old Christian population.
Beyond Iraq, from 1910 to 2010, the percentage of Christians in the Middle East—in countries like Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Jordan—has drastically declined. At one time, 14 percent of the population, Christians now make up roughly four percent in the region. Statistics show that due to ongoing wars, ethnic and religious cleansing and genocide, Christians are a flickering light in their ancient homeland.
Christian persecution in Iraq 2003 to present
The Iraqi Christian Relief Council breaks the destruction of the Christian community in Iraq into two time periods in recent history:
Both of these time periods show similar, though distinctive, abuses and crimes against Christians in Iraq and the Middle East. Iraqi Christian Relief Council provides support for these vulnerable Christian communities through distribution of essential aid, such as housing, food and healthcare, and advocates to secure a safe homeland within the Middle East for religious and ethnic minorities.