By Lyndsey Koh
Iraq (MNN) — Christianity has been around in Iraq for approximately 2,000 years — one of the oldest Christian heritages. However, Iraqi Christians are teetering on the knife’s edge of extinction, according to Chaldean Archbishop Habib Nafali of Basra. The Archbishop suggests that all it would take is one more wave of persecution to wipe out Christianity from the country entirely.
It’s not hard to imagine. Christians in Iraq are essentially suffering genocide as they are systematically targeted by Muslim extremists. Furthermore, Denise Godwin with International Media Ministries (IMM) says for those who leave, it’s difficult to go back.
“I know that a lot of times, Christians who have been possibly better educated are able to leave the country when the persecution or a war erupts. If they don’t re-immigrate, those who are left become smaller and smaller during times of persecution.”
According to Open Doors’ World Watch List, Iraq is 8th in the world for harsh Christian persecution. In addition to extremist terrorism, Iraqi believers also face oppression from Christianophobic employers who refuse to hire them and from government leaders who want them to leave.
However, there is hope for the remnant Church.
“When [the] traditional church gets shut down and missionary workers get shut down…there is still this way of connecting via media to be encouraged, hear about other Christians, hear what God is doing, just be hearing things from the Word that nurture you when you may feel really isolated in persecution.”
That’s where IMM comes in. Their ministry is working to get Gospel-based media on every screen — including in closed countries like Iraq. IMM creates drama and storytelling videos that share the hope of Jesus Christ.
“[In] each story we focus on a specific audience, so maybe that’s women in the Middle East or that’s people who have been victims of something that has made them a refugee in some way. Each story is focusing really specifically on someone who has experienced or living in a region that has a specific problem.”
Godwin explains, “We’ve always been excited to be part of telling those kinds of stories to people, that they are not alone. That’s such an important thing when the Church is persecuted or closed, that people know they aren’t alone — they aren’t the only believer in Baghdad or in their city. We are trying to work with people who are going in and out of these regions to tell stories that are really tangible to people in these situations.”
Christians in free societies can sometimes take connection with the Body of Christ for granted and even neglect meeting together. But for believers in Iraq, communal gathering isn’t even always an option.
“We talked to some people who recently had a police raid on their church. The police said, ‘This is over,’ and these people in a closed persecuted country said, ‘No, the Church isn’t over because the Church is us.’ That was really humbling for me.”
These believers often embrace media in various forms to interact with fellow Christians and grow in their faith. Although it’s easy for government officials or Muslim radicals to shut down a church building, it’s much harder to control digital forms of communication and connection.
But it doesn’t stop there. “These people are in-turn going out and making media,” Godwin says. “We can partner with them to help them create more media in their local language so that the Church can continue to grow and be nurtured.”
As IMM continues advancing the Gospel and encouraging the Church in Iraq, Godwin recognizes this is a very real spiritual battle. They need your prayers.
“It’s really important to pray [for protection] over us as we shoot different stories because there is such a pushback in dark places when we start telling stories. Just this week, we were telling a story of healing in North Africa, and literally, while we were shooting it, people on our team were running out of the room and being sick in the parking lots. Immediately, the powers of darkness were pushing back. So, it’s so important to cover missions workers with a prayer of protection and that God’s power will be stronger than the enemy in these situations.”
Also, she adds, “It’s so important that we pray over these refugees who go back to their countries and want to stand and rebuild their culture and rebuild it on solid Christian principles.”
Click here to learn more about IMM and how you can come alongside their ministry!