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Over the last week, I have been reading a number of articles on the effects of the regime changes in Afghanistan and Iraq as it impacts religious liberty, especially for Christians. Before I proceed any further, let me make it clear that, in principle, I personally support the overthrow of the Taliban and the Baathist government of Saddam Hussein. Both regimes were brutal in their suppression of basic human rights and the world (to say nothing of their countries) is a safer place with them out of power.

But we would be mistaken to think that simple regime change will automatically result in better conditions for Christian minorities in these states. In Afghanistan, for example, the Afghan Minister of Justice, Asharaf Rasooli stated categorically to CBN journalist, George Thomas last year, "No Muslim is allowed to convert to another religion. But if a person wants to convert to Islam, there is no problem with that." Mullah Fazul Shinwari, Afghanistan's Supreme Court Chief Justice, has warned that those found guilty in his courtroom of sharing the Gospel, could face the death penalty. While there have been no reports of actual public executions of converts to Christianity to date, VOM sources indicate that there have been converts killed in remote areas of the country. Yes, there is greater freedom in Afghanistan today than there was a couple of years ago, but the verdict is still out whether Afghanistan will be able to do what no other Islamic state has been capable of; allowing freedom of religion, including the right to convert from the majority religion. Frankly, I am doubtful.

My pessimism extends to the new Iraq emerging from the ruins of Saddam Hussein's former regime. Shiite Muslims are rightfully rejoicing over their newfound religious freedom, having been suppressed by Hussein during his rule. Speaking to a group of business reporters earlier this week, President Bush enthused, "I love the stories about people saying, 'Isn't it wonderful to be able to express our religion, the Shia religion, on a pilgrimage this weekend.' It made my day to read that." Unfortunately, this newfound freedom has been accompanied by calls for the establishment of an Islamic state by a number of Iraqi Shiites. This would most certainly bode ill for religious minorities like Christians. One need only look across the border to Shiite-dominated Iran to see how Bahais, Christians and other religious minorities fare under such a regime. Freedom House's Paul Marshall in an article in the National Review early last month stated quite correctly, "Unless the U.S. realizes the danger extreme sharia law would pose to Iraq, America could preside over a process of radical Islamization like that currently threatening Afghanistan's reconstruction. Instead of aiding Muslims who want genuine religious freedom and equality, we will help build reactionary regimes that, as recent experience shows, are likely to become our enemies" (http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-marshall030703.asp).

It is incumbent on those of us who live in liberal democracies to insist to our political leaders that, in their desire to help rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, they not ignore the dangers that come with allowing these new regimes to integrate sharia law into their new constitutions. We have already imposed our will upon these countries by changing their regimes (either actively through military intervention, or passively by welcoming the overthrow of these regimes even if not actively involved). The time is past for our leaders to say that we must allow Iraqis free reign to now decide for themselves what kind of government to set up. If our governments allow sharia law to be constitutionally enshrined in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will likely be right back to where we started from in only a few years. In fact, in the case of Iraq, the Christian population (and other religious minorities) may very well be worse off than they were with Saddam as their leader. We face a unique opportunity in Iraq and Afghanistan today; the opportunity to assist in building societies that genuinely permit religious freedom. If we are going to help Iraq and Afghanistan to build more civil societies, we must recognize that sharia law is part of the original problem; it cannot be made part of the solution.

Current Ministry Projects

VOMC is partnering to teach and equip persecuted Christian women sewing skills so that they can provide a sustainable source of income for their families and give them the opportunity to be witnesses for Christ through their new businesses. VOMC partners to provide biblical training on discipleship and the theology of persecution to Muslim Background Believers.

Project Funds: Women’s Ministry, Equipping the Saints, Underground Church

Country Information

Population
39,650,145 (July 2021 est.)

Ethnicity (%)
Arab (75-80), Kurdish (15-20), Turkoman, Assyrian, and other (5)

Religion (%)
Islam (95-98), Christianity (1), other (1-4)

Leader
President Barham Salih (2018)

Government type
Federal parliamentary republic

Legal system

Mixed legal system of civil and Islamic law

Source: CIA World Factbook

Pray for Iraq

Pray for the protection of the remaining believers in Iraq during this time of upheaval and danger. May many churches and Christian relief organizations seize the opportunity to provide greatly needed assistance and ministry to the numerous suffering people of this war-torn nation. As God’s work of healing, provision and restoration takes place, pray that a stable democratic government will be established.

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Iraq News

  • Aid Workers Released
    Devastation from the war
    Some of the devastation
    from the conflict in Iraq.
    Photo: World Watch Monitor

    On January 20th, four humanitarian aid workers from the French organization, SOS Chretiens d'Orient, went missing while in Baghdad. Details were limited, providing no information on those responsible nor the reasons behind

    ...
  • Four Foreign Aid Workers Missing
    Devastation in Iraq
    Some of the devastation from the conflict in Iraq.
    Photo: World Watch Monitor

    On January 20th, four workers affiliated with the French organization, SOS Chretiens d'Orient, went missing while in Baghdad. Despite repeated attempts to contact them, no response has been received to date. At last report

    ...
  • Families Again Forced to Flee Hometown

    Hilla, Iraq

    Hundreds of Iraqi Christian families had recently returned to their hometown of Teleskuf, after being displaced for years due to attacks perpetrated by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, only to be forced to flee their northern Iraq community all over again. These families hav

    ...