Although every effort has been made to be specific, the issues within Iraq are complex and more than one article can cover. This profile is a short synopsis of the country.
Iraq is almost entirely Muslim, with only 330,000 Christians in a population of 35.9 million people. The main religion is Islam, although both Sunni (~65%) and Shia (~35%) are represented. The government is currently a parliamentary democracy, although Islamic extremists are increasingly threatening that.
Iraq ranks #4 on the World Watch List as a country high in Christian persecution. Attacks on Christians increase every year, forcing many to flee to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
Threats to Christians come from the Muslim community in Iraq and from the government. Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, all laws are secondary to Islamic law. This allows the government to single out Christians, and other minorities, for discrimination.
Christians are often caught in the middle of feuding Muslim factions, as well as being the target for terrorist groups operating in Iraq. Sunni and Shia attacks on each other often catch Christians as the Christians are living in the disputed areas of Iraq. The terrorist groups in the country target Christians as they work to create chaos in Iraq. Their goal is to create a total Islamic state with Sharia law and no Western influence.
Currently, the entire country is a hotspot. Within the past few weeks, key major cities have been taken over by extremist groups: Mosul, Tikrit, Fallujah, and others. This latest eruption of violence is threatening the areas in the north that were once considered safe. These areas in the north are where many Christians, who chose not to flee Iraq completely, have taken refuge from the violence. It is reported that in 2010, an estimated 50% of the Christian population completely left Iraq between the fall of Hussein (2003) and 2010.
The oil pipelines in the northern sections of Iraq are complicating this issue, bringing the Kurdish population into the mix of violence. Feeling threatened, they have taken over the city of Kirkuk. Iran and the US are pledging support of the Baghdad forces, both having military presence in the country.
US POLICY TOWARD IRAQ
US policy toward Iraq has been murky at best over the past few years. Trying to hand autonomy over to the Iraqis has proven difficult. With the latest outbreak of violence, the US has promised the Iraqi Prime Minister an increase in security measures. It has yet to be seen what this means, as the press secretary said the White House is not contemplating ground troops.
Aid to the Church in Need. “Persecuted and Forgotten: Report on Christians Oppressed for Their Faith 2011-2013”
USCIRF. “Annual Report: 2014”
Human Rights Watch. “World Report:2014”
Joshua Project. http://joshuaproject.net/countries/IZ