Iraq’s Christians face uncertain future

Iraq’s Christian community (numbering 400,000) has suffered along with the general population during the rule of Saddam Hussein but was not singled out for persecution, although there were signs of this changing last year when a new law allowed only Muslim names to be given to babies.

Indeed, most recorded incidents of persecution of Christians had come from the Kurdish controlled areas in the north – the most recent being the murder of Ziwar Mohammed Ismaeel (a Christian convert from Islam) in February by a Muslim extremist.

During the recent war, Iraq’s Christians suffered along with the rest of the population. On 31 March Bartulla, a Christian village just 12 km from Mosul, was bombed when Coalition planes hit the local Ba‚Äôath Party headquarters. Reports state 20 Christians were killed and 75 wounded in this tragedy.

Now, as the war has ended, Iraq’s Christians wait and wonder what attitude towards religious freedom will be taken by the new rulers of the country. The majority of the Christians are Catholic or Orthodox, with several dozen evangelical congregations located mostly in larger urban areas. (Barnabas Fund, Compass Direct)