The Autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is not the dangerous, war-torn, desert region that many people assume.
Rather, it is a beautiful mountainous fertile land that is green and lush and full of people picnicking and dancing, especially in spring time.
Although many Kurds have died fighting wars on and beyond its borders, the region has been an island of peace and safety for the last 20 years, providing a land of refuge in a troubled region.
However, the peace is fragile. With an economy still in tatters following a massive crash in 2014, a history of oppression by neighbours who remain hostile, and many false dawns, most people’s hope is now in escaping to the West.
In contrast to the physical land, the spiritual landscape is pretty barren. The majority of the small historic Orthodox/Catholic Christian community in the region give Christ a bad name – being known for their lax morals, immodest dress, and drinking alcohol.
Islam permeates every aspect of life, and although it may be true that Kurds are often Kurdish first and Muslim second, families maintain a strong grip on people’s beliefs. Those who are more nominal in their faith often move towards a philosophy of western secularism, but tend to keep the cultural identity of Islam.
Currently the greatest openness to the Gospel seems to be among displaced peoples, and particularly those from a Yazidi background. Their arrival at the handful of evangelical Arabic speaking churches is challenging those churches to consider catering for Kurdish language speakers.
With only a few local believers, there is next to no opportunity for Kurds to hear the gospel from people of their own (or even a near) culture.
The work of developing a Kurdish speaking church – as in many pioneering situations –tends to be slow, with many ups and downs. With only a few local believers, there is next to no opportunity for Kurds to hear the gospel from people of their own (or even a near) culture. Many who do come to Christ, end up fleeing the region; and those who don’t, often end up living out their faith in secret and isolation.
However, while the work may seem weak and fragile, we trust that, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3). We dare not “despise the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10) for we have a God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine … To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Please pray for …
- more long term workers, who will learn the language
- the seed of God’s word to go out (the KRI has two main languages – the Sorani Bible was published in 2017 and the Behdini NT is due late 2019)
- that just as the spring rains bring the dry land to life, God would poor out his Spirit on this people and cause the seed to produce a great harvest
- believers to desire fellowship with others and grow in confidence to speak of Jesus and not be silenced by fear of their own families.