Christian persecution in Iraq is complex, with the emigration of believers being a long-standing challenge, as it is for all Iraqis. One factor affecting Christians is long-standing discrimination in employment (especially in the public sector).
Since 2003, sectarian violence has been a major factor, with many persecuted Christians feeling obliged to leave the country or relocate to the KRG area. At times, Christians were targets in kidnap-for-ransom crime. Some Christians were forcibly expelled from Baghdad. In 2014, the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State caused the displacement of almost all Christians in Mosul and other areas, notable the Nineveh Plain which has been a long-standing home to many Christians. All Christian places of worship were desecrated.
Some have been restored, but pressure remains on those Christians who have chosen to return to the area. Disciples from Muslim heritage typically face harassment from family and society. A recent development has been the prosecution of two Christians under blasphemy and telecommunication laws.
President Barham Salih
“In my view, the Chaldean Church is the largest in Iraq and has at most 120,000 adherents. In my view, this implies that there are no more than 250,000 Christians in the country.”
— Cardinal Fernando Filoni
History of Christianity
Christianity arrived at or shortly after Pentecost. Churches emerged early in the history of Christianity. As with much of the Middle East, the Crusades had a profound impact, creating Catholic denominations in parallel with existing Eastern and Oriental Orthodox denominations.
Today, the largest church is the Chaldean Catholic. Emigration of Christians is a long-standing challenge for the churches. Sanctions in the 1990s severely impacted most professions prompting emigration among which Christians were disproportionately represented. Internal sectarian conflict in the twenty-first century has prompted further emigration as well as movement within the country.
One example is that the Catholic Seminary relocated from Baghdad to Arbil, capital of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) area in northern Iraq. There are a small number of disciples of Jesus of Muslim heritage.