Mission Network News recently covered a story about the growing culture of “digital church” within Iraq. Iraq is home to an ancient community of Christians, and within that community there are Christians of every background and denomination. Having been deeply persecuted over years, Christians in Iraq have a great need for community and spiritual connections with their brothers and sisters in Christ.
For new Christians especially, it is dangerous to seek out spiritual resources as a convert in many parts of the world. Conversion to Christianity is frowned upon in much of the Islamic world, and Iraq is no exception.
In many parts of Iraq, there is a culture of hostility that makes it dangerous for Christians to open up about their faith with others, and this applies whether or not someone is a new Christian or is part of an established Christian community. As a result of this, many Iraqis have found ways to use technology to connect with other Christians and bolster their faith. Digital church culture is thriving in Iraq.
“Having access to smartphones has opened up an avenue for [Iraqis] to hear about the Gospel and the hope and the joy offered in Jesus Christ,” says Samuel from the organization Redemptive Stories. “After that, there needs to be an opportunity for discipleship. And that’s where the digital church comes in.”
Samuel went on to say that many people have come to faith in places without physical churches. This especially applies to places in the rural south and west, far away from the big cities.
And many people are coming to faith in the risen Jesus. Samuel says, “I think the biggest shock has been the sheer numbers. If you look at the numbers from different organizations, in terms of those that have responded to the Gospel, some are counting numbers in the millions.”
Praise God for the connections being built between Christians in Iraq.
As people move back into areas destroyed by the Islamic State, some have begun rebuilding churches. Samuel says, “That is the ideal. And we look at digital churches in many cases as the bridge to the ideal.”
American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (American FRRME) is a U.S.-based Christian charity that aims to bring hope, help and healing in the Middle East, assisting Iraqi Christian refugees and other religious minorities.
American FRRME works to support the ongoing needs of Iraqis – primarily Christian Iraqis – who fled Iraq and Kurdistan during the ISIS insurgency in 2014. The organization supports those displaced within Iraq many of whom remain living in Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps in Baghdad and northern Iraq, as well as supporting those who fled to neighboring Jordan.