With persecution of Christians (and others) going on in Iraq, a few have asked about the nature of the Christian Church in Iraq.

IMG_1938.JPGPrior to the Iraq war, there were 1,500,000 Christians in Iraq. Today there are about 500,000. Most have fled into Syria and Jordan.

Tradition holds that Thomas (Doubting Thomas) and Thaddeus brought the Gospel to Iraq in the first century. Iraqi Christians are the oldest Christian community in the world. Baghdad is about 400 miles ENE from Jerusalem.

The largest group are Chaldean Catholics, which are most prevalent in Iraq, but also present in Turkey, Syria and Iran in lesser numbers. These were originally Assyrian Orthodox Christians who entered into fellowship with the Roman Catholic Church around the time of the Reformation. Their headquarters are in Baghdad, though the Patriarch resides in the northern city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.

IMG_1937.JPGChaldean Christians have a liturgical language of Syriac, which descends from Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke. Here is a 2008 BBC report on Chaldean Christians: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7271828.stm

Other Christians in Iraq:
Syriac Orthodox Church
Syriac Catholic Church
Ancient Church of the East
Assyrian Church of the East
Armenian Apostolic Church
Armenian Catholic Church
Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch
Melkite Greek Catholic Church (Byzantine rite)
Roman Catholic Church (Latin rite)
Evangelical Church in Iraq (Presbyterian and Congregational)
There is a Seventh Day Adventist a Church in Baghdad
There is one Anglican Church in Iraq (in Baghdad)
There may be more Protestant churches, but these are the ones of which I am currently aware.

Extremist Sunni Muslims and ISIS (successor of Al Qaeda) are not just targeting Christians. They are also targeting Yazidi (Zoroastrians), Shia, Sunnis, Sufis and others. While many will unfortunately suffer from ISIS brutality, its violent ideology and brutality makes its endurance over the long-term unlikely. They are sectarian and violent. Even Osama bin Laden found them to be excessive. ISIS seeks to create an Islamic caliphate that stretches from Syria to Iraq. The group has aggressively targeted Iraqi minority religious groups.

ISIS has many enemies in the Arab and Muslim worlds. In addition to al-Assad and al-Maliki, Sunni-led Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan, see it as a terrorist organization committed to their destruction. As it has done in Syria, and contrary to its grandiose claims of restoring the dignity of Muslims, ISIS has systematically terrorized anyone who stands in its way. http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/06/opinion/nazer-west-isis/index.html

Persecution of Christians increased dramatically after the invasion of Iraq. Christians have been kidnapped and churches have been bombed. In March 2008, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul was kidnapped. The kidnappers demanded $3M, which Rahho had told them not to pay. He was found dead two weeks later. He was a vocal opponent of making Sharia Law part of the Iraqi constitution.

The Patriarch issued an urgent appeal. http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/news/2014/07/isis-in-mosul-marks-christian-homes-patriarch-issues-urgent-appeal/. See also: Chaldean Catholic Patriarch says ISIS is worse than Ghengis Khan. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/21/isis-genghis-khan-iraq-chaldean_n_5603939.html

Last year over 2,000 people lost their lives for their Christian faith, up from 1,200 the year before. The five most dangerous countries for Christians are North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, in that order. https://bishopmike.com/2014/07/29/persecution-of-christians/

Sadly, this could drive many of the remaining Christians out of Iraq, just as most Christians have now been driven out of Jerusalem. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_Iraq