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PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

IRAQ

Population: 4.5 million Majority Religion: Islam (88%) Christian population: 40,000 Persecution Category: Limited

Population: 34 million Majority Religion: Islam (98%) Christian population: 330,000 Persecution Category: Severe

The Palestinian Territories comprise the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A reconciliation agreement was signed in March 2014 between Fatah (in control of the West Bank) and Hamas (in control of Gaza), with unity as its aim. Many Palestinian Christians feel marginalised by extremist Muslims and Israel and ignored by the worldwide church.

The exodus of Christians from Iraq continues at an alarming rate. Hundreds of thousands have fled in response to targeted violence, reducing the Christian population to a quarter of the size it was in 1990. Most of the violence is sectarian, perpetrated by Sunni Muslim extremists against Shia Muslim and Christian targets.

There are only about 1,500 Christians left in Gaza, which is one of the poorest and most densely populated areas of the world. Three churches (Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical) seek to operate in an often hostile environment where the Christian community is under constant pressure. Christians have been leaving Gaza in large numbers, many going to the West Bank.

Such violence overshadows all political life in Iraq, where lack of government control means that militants are free to act with impunity. In June 2014, most of the Christian population of Mosul, Iraqi’s second city, fled the city as it was overrun by fighters from the radical Sunni Muslim group ISIS.

Christians in the West Bank enjoy much greater freedom and churches generally operate freely. The Bible Society has a number of centres distributing Bibles and material aid, and over 100 students attend Bethlehem Bible College (an Evangelical training centre).

Most Iraqi Christians are Catholic or Orthodox and trace their history back to the first century. The evangelical community is small but growing: many from Muslim backgrounds become Christians through the witness of others, gospel radio and through dreams and visions of Jesus. They are obvious targets for persecution.

Middle East

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Church in Chains Global Guide  

The Church in Chains Global Guide lists 60 countries where Christians face persecution because of their faith. The Global Guide divides the...

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