Nowhere has the decline of Christianity in the Middle East been more dramatic than in Iraq. The country is widely regarded as one of the most difficult places in the world to live as a Christian.
According to Open Doors, Christians in Iraq are subject to extreme persecution which has led to an ever decreasing presence.
The numbers of Christians have diminished in the last 10-12 years, down in no small part to the US invasion in 2003. The population before 2003 was certainly over a million with some figures suggesting it was as much as 1.5 million.
Although deplorable in many ways the reign of Saddam Hussein is now seen as a “golden age” for Christians.The removal of Hussein, however, made way for a vicious Shia-Sunni power struggle.
Vehement anti-West rhetoric has manifested itself in persecution of those perceived to be most representative of Western values – Christians. Consequently as many as a million people, two-thirds of Iraq’s Christians, fled in the decade following the fall of Hussein.
“Sometimes it was the work of al-Qaeda, sometimes Sunni insurgents pining for the return of Sunni control of Iraq. Sometimes it was Shiite militias fighting the Sunnis but finding time to persecute Christians.”
Much of this persecution pre-dated Islamic State, or Daesh as it is also known. But following the violence of Daesh the situation has further deteriorated.
Tens of thousands of Christian families were forced to flee Mosul and surrounding areas; one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.
It is not just Christians that suffered at the hands of Daesh.
Director General of the Yazidi Affairs in the Kurdistan Ministry of Religious Affairs Khairi Bozani said 400,000 people comprising 75% of Yazidis are still displaced following the invasion of Sinjar, a town in Iraq’s Ninevah Governorate. Even as the fight against Daesh is reaching a conclusion many Yazidi women who have experienced significant horror consider that return to their villages is not an option.