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 university student in Turkey often saw the cross on a native ministry’s church building while walking with her boyfriend, and a few months ago – though she was from a strict Muslim family – she suggested they check it out. Her boyfriend of three years, Ahmet Korkmaz*, saw no point in doing so. “There’s nothing in this church,” he told his girlfriend, Beyza Yavuz*.
For 10 years a veteran of the Iraq-Iran war wondered how he could respond to Christ for having freed him from needing a wheelchair. Years after losing use of his legs, Mustafa Abbas* was watching a Christian progam on a satellite channel in 2011 when he followed the speaker’s encouragement to pray in Christ’s name for healing, he told ministry workers in his native Iraq. “I repeated those prayer words with all my heart and asked Christ to heal me, and I was healed,” he told the workers last year. “Christ healed me, and I am grateful to Him, and I know you are His followers – tell me how to return this favor to Him.”
The headman of a village in Laos summoned a local missionary to his office. “I heard that you are speaking to people in the village, and you are talking about Jesus, and now people told me that some of them are interested,” the headman told him. The local missionary, pastor of a house church, showed the headman a government booklet stating that Christianity was one of the officially accepted faiths in the country.
A Kurdish family recently fled from an oppressive government in Iran. After walking 37 nights in the mountains of Greece, the mother’s feet had swollen so much that they no longer in fit her shoes. She also had a skin infection, as did one of her children. “They had been walking at night and sleeping during the day, hiding in the mountains,” the leader of a ministry in Greece said. “They were told that if they got arrested, they would be pushed back into Turkey.”
Since a military coup plunged Burma (Myanmar) into chaos one year ago, the gospel has advanced even as violence and COVID-19 paralyzed the country. “COVID-19 killed 413 Christian ministers within four months, some of them close friends and relatives,” the leader said. “Among our missionaries, four caught COVID-19 and almost died, but they have been restored and have worked hard in soul-winning outreach.” One of the native missionaries nearly died in July, and since then he and his wife have planted a church, the leader said.
Leading Muslims to faith in Christ in Syria brings the discipleship challenge of helping them to withstand persecution, among other issues. Recently local missionaries stood with a woman whose husband and son were killed for refusing to deny Christ. “That is a hard thing,” the ministry leader said. “She says, ‘Every time I close my eyes, I see my husband and my son in front of me, how they killed them.’”