Troop withdrawal leaves Iraqi Christians with one less safeguard

Author: Katey Hearth

Publication Date: 11/9/2020

Source: Mission Network News

Some 2,200 U.S. troops are leaving Iraq later this month, officials announced Wednesday, leaving 3,000 soldiers behind to support local authorities. It’s the first troop withdrawal from Iraq since 2016.

 The departure comes nearly two decades after the first U.S. forces invaded Baghdad in 2003. Samuel* with Redemptive Stories says believers had more stability in the early 2000s than they do now.

“If you look back at the history of Iraq during Saddam’s era, the Christians were actually ‘protected’ people, which is kind of ironic considering all of the terrible things that Saddam did during his reign,” he states.

In this 2011 article, university professor Adeed Dawisha told PBS Newshour, “There was a kind of a social contract in Iraq. Under Saddam, it was understood that if you don’t interfere in politics, then you are provided with a good life.” Eight years earlier, a bishop from Baghdad told AsiaNews that believers suffered persecution during Hussein’s rule.

Fear factor

Prior to 2003, more than a million believers called Iraq “home.” Today, only an estimated 250,000 believers remain. Pointing to Christians’ response following the Beirut blast as an example, Samuel says this remnant lives constantly on the edge.

“For the past 40 calendar years of war they have been able to survive, but they’ve always had this ‘fear complex’ because there’s always such strife around them,” Samuel says.

“There [are] constant issues of fear.”

Though conditions have improved slightly in recent years, Iraq remains one of the world’s most difficult places to follow Christ. Two weeks ago, the UN warned of increasing Islamic State activity in Iraq and Syria.

“If you look across the swath of the region – Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq – so many Christians are facing extreme hardships,” Samuel notes.

*–Name changed for security purposes.


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