In Iraq, there is a law that means a person cannot change their religion from ‘Muslim’ to ‘Christian’ on their official ID card. Believers who find themselves in this situation can be extremely isolated: treated with suspicion by the Christian community, while also rejected by Muslims.
But there is hope. Mr Youhanna is a lawyer in Iraq who gives legal counsel to Christians who suffer this discrimination.
“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 church – all because it is 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,” Mr Youhanna explains.
Matti is one such believer who has received help from Mr Youhanna and Open Doors local partners. “I was born into a Christian family,” he says. “I remember being baptised as a small child in Baghdad. To this day, my faith in Christ means everything to me.
“Everything changed for me as an adult. I went to get 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 realised that it had also changed the religion of my brother and me to ‘Muslim’. In that moment, my world started to fall apart.”
Mr Youhanna says, “The Christian cannot marry a Christian, because it’s written on his ID that he is 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, their 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.”
But thankfully, Matti is finding the help he needs. “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 to get your identity back by challenging the current law.’ He gave me counselling 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.”
It’s thanks to your prayers and support that Matti and believers like him can get the help they need to restore their lives and reclaim their true identity: as a follower of Christ.
Mr Youhanna says, “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.”
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