Pray for the Marsh Arabs of Iraq

Maneuvering his boat with a pole through the canals in the marshes, Abdul makes his way to a secluded hut made of reeds on the water, where his family will eat the fish he caught earlier. Abdul is a Marsh Arab, living in the desert wetlands of southern Iraq where the Tigris River joins the Euphrates. His culture depends on the water for survival.

There are two branches in the Islamic faith: Sunni and Shia. The vast majority of global Muslims are Sunni, but in Iraq, Shia’s are the majority. This division has long been asource of conflict. In the 1980s and 1990s, water was diverted from the wetlands by Sunni Muslim authorities intending to destroy the livelihood of the Marsh Arabs, who are Shia. Recent efforts have restored about half of the marshes and in 2016 this rare ecosystem with its unique wildlife was named a World Heritage site.

The Marsh Arabs are a people in transition. They had a population of 500,000 in the 1970s, but many fled when the marshes were drained. An estimated 48,000 live there today, fishing, raising water buffalo, and rebuilding the traditional meeting structures made of reed columns known as mudhifs. Some have moved to cities, in Iraq and abroad, and have lost the skills required to live in the marshes. And some Marsh Arabs are returning and hoping to create an ecotourism destination in this land that tradition says was once the Garden of Eden.

How to Pray

  • There are no known Christians among Marsh Arabs to share the message that Jesus has restored what was lost in Eden. (Romans 5:17)
  • Marsh Arab families have been displaced due to war, and many struggle to rebuild their lives. Pray for the Marsh Arab diaspora to find joy in Christ. (Psalm 30:11)
  • Pray for efforts to restore this special environment, and for those returning to their homes here to find living water. (John 4:14)

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