Area: 438,317 sq km
Fertile plains of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; high mountains to the north and Syrian desert in southwest. Site of the ancient Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian Empires.
Population: 31,466,698 Annual Growth: 2.19%
Official language: Arabic; Kurdish Languages: 26 All languages
Largest Religion: Muslim
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The Kurdish Autonomous Region possesses significant autonomy but many of its own problems as well. Dominated by Kurds, it possesses restive minorities (Turkmen, Arabs, Assyrians) as well as strong antipathy to neighbouring Turkey. The Kurds have fought long for an independent state; Iraqi Arab reprisals have been particularly cruel, and broken Western promises embittering. The KARs degree of autonomy remains a sensitive issue, nationally and regionally. Pray for the following:
a) Kurdish desires for freedom and security are being realized, at least in Iraq, but neighbours with large Kurdish populations see this as a possible threat to stability. Control over the highly contested and oil-rich city of Kirkuk is a particularly hot issue. The Kurdish desire for sovereignty is probably the primary, long-term destabilizing issue for Iraq. The trigger line, where Arab and Kurdish areas of control meet, is the most violent place in Iraq, and the historic Christian populations are caught in the middle.
b) Economic improvement to a region traditionally fraught with poverty. Initially NGOs lent much assistance. Now, the KAR is exporting oil via Turkey. However, the two most powerful (and rival) Kurdish clans have enriched themselves in the post-1991 and post-2003 power plays, much to the disgust of many other Kurds. Most of Iraqs Kurds were displaced by Saddams genocidal intentions; their return en masse strains the KARs ability to care for them.
c) The Church is officially tolerated in the KAR more than the rest of Iraq, with the Kurdish government even encouraging the work of Christian NGOs and the building of churches. Nonetheless, non-Kurdish ethnic minorities, such as the 45,000 Assyrian Christians, suffer growing marginalization at the hands of the increasingly dominant Kurds.
d) The number of Kurdish believers continues to grow praise God. Even for Kurds, leaving Islam can have dangerous consequences, but many are coming to faith and have a passion for winning others as well. The Church is still young and small, and it faces not only growing pains from within but also pressures from without. Pray also for positive interface between Western Christian NGOs and the Kurdish people, both Christian and non-Christian.
Christian support ministries:
a) The Bible Society has been actively involved in Iraq since 1985, importing and printing many Scriptures and NTs. The recent translation of the Bible into Kurdish is one significant boost; almost all languages in Iraq have at least some Scripture. Most recently, the NT has been completed in Sorani Kurdish, and the Bahdini Kurdish NT was near completion in 2010.
b) Christian literature is in great demand. Much is imported. There is a growing need and hunger for commentaries, study books and Bibles. Pray that the increasing Scripture distribution would continue and would bear much fruit; more than one million Bibles in Arabic alone have been sent into Iraq. The development of Christian literature in Arabic is well advanced; pray for more materials to be developed in the different dialects of Kurdish.
c) The JESUS film is available in 11 languages and is widely seen on TV and extensively distributed in video format. Pray for its impact in the homes and hearts of Iraqis.
d) Christian satellite TV and radio are huge influences in Iraq. Millions watch SAT-7 programmes as well as three other Arabic Christian channels. TWR, FEBA and IBRA broadcast radio (mostly via shortwave) into Iraq in Arabic, Sorani Kurdish and a few other languages. The KAR has a local Christian radio station. Pray that the good news might reach further using these media; pray also that these tools would be helpful in building up and discipling.
For an additional 9 Challenges for Prayer see Operation World book, CD-ROM, or DVD-ROM.
The Operation World book, CD-ROM, and DVD-ROM provide far more information and fuel for prayer for the people of Iraq.