Court Orders Christian Family to Convert to Islam

Court Orders Christian Family to Convert to Islam

Iraqi children are huddled together, smiling and scrambling for the attention of the photographer.
Children in Iraq
Photo: Flickr / UN / ECHO (cc)

A Christian woman is presently facing a difficult ruling after being ordered by an Iraqi court to convert to Islam. The decision is based on the 1959 Personal Status Law, which mandates that children must adopt Islam if one of their parents converts to the Muslim faith.

Evlin Joseph was 15 years old when her parents divorced. Her mother then married a Muslim man and converted to Islam at that time. Years later, Evlin married a Christian man, and the couple began raising their three children according to the teachings of Christianity. However, when Evlin sought to obtain a national ID card, which specifies the religion of Iraqi citizens, the authorities stated that – since her mother had converted to Islam while Evlin was still a minor – she is also considered Muslim by law.

The matter went to court, where officials ordered that Evlin has to be designated as a Muslim. Accordingly, she is not legally eligible to be married to a Christian man. Additionally, since she is now labelled a Muslim, her children are also officially considered Muslims by the government.

Evlin is from Duhok in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. In speaking about the ruling, she stated: "I am Christian. I am married to a Christian man. I have three Christian kids. My education was in our language. All my official documents are Christian. Our marriage is registered by the church." The couple now must deal with the many ways in which this decision could affect their marital, inheritance and custodial rights.

A conference was recently held in the regional capital of Erbil, focussing on the ramifications of the Personal Status Law. The president of the Kurdistan Region offered his support to Christians. The conference, which included delegates from other Middle Eastern countries, called for legal reforms that would give Christians in Iraq full religious rights. For more information on the difficulties being encountered by believers in Iraq, go to our country report.

Prayerfully remember Evlin, her husband Sami and their children as they deal with this difficult court decision. May there be a resolution that will keep the family intact and allow each of them to continue living out their Christian faith. Pray that greatly needed changes will take place in the hearts of the country's governing leaders, and that legal revisions will be enacted to ensure greater religious freedoms for our suffering family in Christ. Pray also that Christians throughout the nation will continue to be faithful witnesses of Jesus' love and grace to those around them – resulting in the salvation of many more Iraqi people.

  • Current Ministry Projects

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

  • Country Information

    41,266,109 (2023 est.)

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

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

    President Latif Rashid (2022)

    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.

Iraq News

  • Church Leader Faces Accusations of Blasphemy
    Bahzad Mziri
    Bishop Bahzad Mziri
    Photo: Middle East Concern

    Bahzad Mziri, the bishop of an Anabaptist church in the Kurdistan city of Duhok, is facing threats of blasphemy charges after social media comments were published. Considered by some Iraqi Facebook recipients to be offensive to Islam, the post comparing Jesus to the Islamic prophet Mohammed was made in response to insulting statements published online earlier by a Muslim leader. The post on the bishop's Facebook account was reposted on February 16th by Muslims intent on inciting anger.

  • Oppression of Iraqi Believers
    Man's hands holding a gospel tract
    Those caught evangelizing could face blasphemy charges.
    Photo: VOMC

    A recent report from the American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East highlights the desperate circumstances facing many Iraqi Christians – both those residing in their country as well as those living as refugees. Over the past two decades, 80 percent of the nation's Christians, which amounts to over one million people, have left the country and chosen not to return.

  • 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 the disappearance. For a previously posted report on this situation, go to this report.