On 27th October, the Iraqi Parliament passed a law that states that the Christian children of a father who converts to Islam or a mother who marries a Muslim, automatically become Muslim. An amendment proposed by Iraq’s non-Muslim religious communities, suggesting that minors keep their religion until the age of 18, was overwhelmingly rejected by 137 votes to 51.
According to Iraq’s Patriarch, Mar Louis Raphael I Sako, the law contravenes the Iraqi Constitution’s provision for ethnic and religious diversity, protection against “religious coercion”, and freedom of “thought, conscience and ideology”.
“This norm is one of the most discriminatory,” said the senior church leader, “because it shows a total disregard for the values of the civilisation of Iraq and against those who are considered to be among the first citizens of this country.”
The new law has not been enforced in Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq, but Bishop Rabban al-Qas of Iraqi Kurdistan, has warned that the new law “will drive Christians away”, further exacerbating the threat to Christianity in Iraq.
“We are facing a genocide in a country that knows only death and liberticidal laws,” he said. “Here there is neither freedom nor respect.”
The threat to the Christian presence in Iraq is very real. Canon Andrew White, who is well known for his work in Baghdad and as the founder of The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation for the Middle East (FRRME), stated last week: “Christianity [in the Middle East] will probably survive, but this is the hardest thing it has been through.”
- Pray for Christian in Iraq, who are facing increasing threats from ISIL, and now from the government. Pray for their faith to remain strong, and tat they will be united as they protest this latest law and call on the government to revoke it.
- Pray for the Iraqi government, to act with justice and protect the rights of Iraqi Christians, and for Iraqi children to retain their Christian identity.
- Pray for Christians across the Middle East at this time of extreme persecution and pressure. Pray that they will not lose heart, but will grow in faith and the knowledge of God’s love for them.
- Pray for peace in the Middle East, and for many to have dreams, vision and life changing encounters with the Living Christ Jesus.
Micah 6 vs 8: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”