IRAQ — Iraqi law forbids a person from changing their religion from ‘Muslim’ to ‘Christian on their official ID. Believers who find themselves in this situation can be extremely isolated, treated with suspicion by the Christian community while also rejected by Muslims. Mr Youhanna* gives legal counsel to Christians like Matti* who suffers this discrimination.
Mr Youhanna* – Iraqi Lawyer:
“Imagine you are a young man, aged 17 or 20 and because of your ID you can’t get married or access the education you want or go to the church – all because it’s written on your ID that you are a Muslim and you have to stay like that. And if you decide to change your religion, you don’t have the right to do so.”
“I was born into a Christian family. I remember being baptized as a small child in Baghdad. And to this day my faith in Jesus Christ means everything to me. Everything changed for me as an adult. I went to make my ID card but they could not find my records. Eventually they found my mother’s name and underneath we saw that my name had been changed to Mohammed. My mother left us years ago and remarried a Muslim man but we realized that it had also changed the religion of my brother and me to ‘Muslim.’
In that moment my world started to fall apart.
“The Christian cannot marry a Christian because it’s written on his ID that he’s a Muslim. And even then if he did get married to a Christian wife she would become Muslim by law because she married a Muslim the children would also become Muslim. This affects a person’s whole life. And this is why we see today that these people are totally broken because of this law.”
“I remember getting a call from my friend and he said: ‘I know a legal clinic that can help you.’
“When I got there I met Mr Youhanna. He said ‘We can help present your case to the courts…We can try and get your identity back by challenging the current law.’
“He gave me counseling and helped me to reflect on things. It gave me hope. He reminded me that this was not my fault, this was not my choice – and that I am still a Christian. Mr Youhanna’s clinic has given me hope that one day my true identity will be restored. One day when I die, I will die as a Christian.
“The church around the world has an important role in supporting this case and standing with Iraqis to oppose this law. They can raise awareness of this subject to the international community through the media and also through their prayers to end the suffering of Iraqis from this issue.
About Open Doors UK
Open Doors is a non-denominational mission that supports persecuted Christians in over 70 countries where Christianity is socially or legally discouraged or oppressed. In their work, they provide vital support, training, and resources to those facing persecution or discrimination.
Resources that they provide include distributing Bibles and literature, running leadership training, assisting with socio-economic development and intercessory prayer. They also help victims of violence and disaster, including widows and orphans, with practical support such as relief aid, livelihood support, and community development projects.
Their vision is of a world in which every Christian who is persecuted is remembered and supported by other Christians. They pray for a world where there is no persecution.
Source: Global News Alliance, Christian Lawyer’s Legal Clinic for Persecuted Iraqi Believers