Pray for the Shabak of Iraq

Hassan has invited his friends for sugar biscuits and sweet tea. But the mood is tense. “The Arabs have driven us out, the Kurds have abandoned us. Who are we supposed to trust anymore?” he asks.

Hassan is a political activist and a member of the Shabak, an ethnic group in Iraq. About 300 000 Shabak live in an area called the Nineveh Plain in the north of the country – where the prophet Jonah called for repentance about 2700 years ago. Today, the region is the scene of ongoing conflict; last year the Islamic State (ISIS) raged in the area. Jihadists killed members of all minorities: Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen – and Shabak.

Most Shabak people follow Shia Islam, with elements of Sufism – a mystical expression of Islam, with their own spiritual guides, known as pirs. From the Islamic State’s point of view as orthodox Sunni Muslims, that makes the Shabak infidels. Arabs and Kurds, the two dominant ethnic groups in Iraq, also often look disdainfully on the Shabak, who earn their living as simple farmers or truck drivers.

For a long time, the Shabak, were largely unknown outside of Iraq. The fact that they were persecuted by the Islamic State suddenly put them in the headlines. But this has done little to change their difficult situation: unemployment is high, especially among young people. Many of them struggle with their identity as members of a small minority.

How to Pray

  • Pray that the few Christians in the Nineveh Plains will be light and salt to the Shabak and share the love of Jesus with them. (Matthew 5:13-16)
  • Pray for Bible material in their language, Shabaki, which is related to Kurdish. (Isaiah 55:11)
  • Pray that soon many Shabak will be able to say, like Jonah, “Out of my distress I cried to the Lord, and he answered me.” (Jonah 2:2)

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