• A few numbers
  • 400 000 Chrétiens
  • Less than 2 % de chrétiens
  • 24 Communautés aidées
  • 3 M € Montant de l'aide versée par l’Œuvre d’Orient


  • Population: 39,191,111 inhabitants (82.7 inhabitants per km²)


  • Official languages: Arabic and Kurdish, as well as Sureth, which is spoken by the Christians (a variant of the Aramaic language spoken by Jesus)


  • Government type: Federal Republic (Barham Salih)



  • Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes since the beginning of the crisis: 1.9 million have been displaced within the country according to the OCHA (31/08/2018), including 590,000 people in the Nineveh governorate.


  • 8.7 million people are in need, half of them are children. Source: OCHA (June 2018) Source OCHA (June 2018)



Iraq and the Eastern Christians


  • Islam is the main religion in Iraq, with 62 % of Shiites and 37 % of Sunnis.  Christians represent less than 2 % of the population, 2/3 Catholics (mainly Chaldean, Syriac and Armenian), 1/3 Orthodox and Assyrian. Yazidi and Mandean Sabean communities are also present.
  • Christians have lived in this country for 2,000 years. Prior to 2003, Iraq had one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East. Eighty percent of the Christian population has fled the country since 1990.
  • The Chaldean patriarch (responsible for the entire worldwide Chaldean community), His Beatitude Louis Raphaël Sako, resides in Baghdad.





Iraqi Christians are the heirs of an extremely ancient religious settlement which pre-dates the arrival of Islam in the 5th century. Almost all of these Christians are the descendants of the people who lived in Mesopotamia before the Christian era. The Chaldean Church was founded in Babylon by Saint Thomas and his disciples.  They evangelised pagans and Jews in exile. At the time it was called the Church of the East. This church, which split following the Council of Ephesus in 431, became part of the Catholic Church in 1553. The Assyrian Church remained separate.


  • – In 1932, Christians made up more than 20 % of the population
  • – At the beginning of the 1980s the country experienced an initial wave of emigration and the Christian population fell to 10%. Since the American intervention, the Christian population has dwindled:
  • – in 2005, the Christian population was still 5 %
  • – in 2007, there was only 3 %
  • – in 2008, there was only 2 %.


L’Œuvre d’Orient’s projects in Iraq


L’Œuvre d’Orient is running many projects in the plain of Nineveh to allow Christians to rebuild their homes and re-settle. For example:

– Re-building of the school run by the Dominican sisters in Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq.

– Reconstruction of the cultural centre in Bartella, which was destroyed by Daesh and by bombing.

– Renovation of the Saint Joseph cultural centre at Karamless, built on the site of a former 13th century monastery. Once restored, the centre will be used for local festivities, weddings and burials, training courses, and it will feature a children’s and adult’s library, plus a family café.


  • In Baghdad, l’Œuvre d’Orient supports the renovation of the Saint Joseph of the Carmelites school. This school received displaced people for over two years after Daesh entered Mosul. The aim is to restore the school to its original function – high-level education and training for young Iraqis of all faiths. The project runs in parallel with the inauguration of a Carmelite Saint Joseph religious community. The work started a few months ago with support from the John Paul II Foundation.


  • In Mosul, help rebuilding the Al Bisharaet Syriac Catholic church and construction of a house for the caretaker and a presbytery for the priest.


More information on Iraqi Christians