How Religion Causes Wars: Analysis Of War In Iraq

Christianity is one of the longest standing religions in the world. Over thousands of years, it has branched off into varying sects, each uniquely adapted to better suit one’s regional limitations and/or personal wants. This is due to the fact that back when Christianity was growing as a population, missionaries and monks would twist and manipulate the beliefs and even add beliefs to better intrigue the interests of noblemen and women (Hays, 2011). The missionaries and monks believed in the concept that if the leader was to convert to Christianity then their subjects would follow them into the religion. One sect that became fairly common in the middle-east, but more specifically Iraq, is the Assyrian Christianity sect.

The Spread and History of Christianity

As Christianity grew across the European nation and into the Middle East, it ran into conflicting religious parties already prevalent within the area. A very common example used when discussing religious wars involving Christianity is the Crusades. The two main sides of the Crusades were the Christians and the Muslims (Madden, 2015). There were many objectives of the Crusades, but two of the main goals were to keep the spread of Isalm in check and to reclaim previously Christian-owned territories and the Holy Land located in the eastern Mediterranean (Madden, 2015). In total, there were 9 crusades spread throughout a roughly 200-year timespan ( Editors, 2010). Even though religions, especially Christianity, often advocate for nonviolent approaches to complex situations, the Crusades were anything but nonviolent. It is estimated that 1.7 million died during the Crusades, meaning 19 out of 20 soldiers perished during the war (Michaelson, 2015). While today’s population would make 1.7 million seem like a fairly small number of casualties to be spanned across a 200-year timespan, one must remember that the Crusades happened hundreds of years ago. The population during the Crusades was only about 300 million, meaning the 1.7 million killed was a quite considerable amount of the population (Michaelson, 2015). For today’s Muslim extremists to reach the same percentage of deaths in the population as those from the conquest, they would have to massacre up to 34 million people.

Iraq’s Current Status

A vast majority of the Iraq population is Islamic, to be specific, 97% of the population (Gaffey, 2015). This leaves an underwhelmingly small 3% of the population that does not identify as Islamic. Of the 3%, only 1% of the population of Iraq identifies as Christian, while the other 2% percentage distinguish themselves as several different various religions found within the region. For decades, Iraqi Christians have grown to be the minority in the Middle East. As the number of Iraqi Christians continues to diminish, the population may go from minuscule to nonexistent. In 2003, an estimated 1.5 Christians resided within Iraq’s borders. 14 years later only ⅙ of 1.5 million Christians remain at most.

The Iraq War

The Iraq War has been in action for almost two whole decades. In several sources, the main reason cited as the cause for the call for war in Iraq is that Saddam Hussein, the previous dictator of Iraq, was in possession of mass weapons of destruction. One severely overlooked source is the influence and effect of religion in Iraq. War in Iraq is caused in part by Christianity because it ties in others who would not necessarily be involved in the conflict, to begin with, had religion not been a factor, promotes outside intervention from other countries which causes the population to flee, and the divide in religions encourages discrimination.

Religions are practiced worldwide. It is not uncommon to see traces of a religion halfway across the world from where it originated from. Religion can be seen as a tying factor between people who could be from completely opposite sides of the world. Christianity is the world’s most widespread religion, equally roughly 31% of the total population (Hackett, 2017). Along with these numbers, 75% of Americans alone identify as Christian (Newport, 2018). Typically, Christians tend to help others of the same faith just as most other religions would do. Consequently, those of the same faith here in the United States would feel obligated to assist those of the same faith struggling to survive in the Middle East.

Iraqi Christian numbers had been declining before the United States officially went to war. However, it was not until after the United States and other nations got involved was a dramatic drop observed. The presence of a foreign nation in Iraq led to increased aggression. 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq in 2003, but after the United States invaded, this number dropped by 80% (BBC, 2010). While not every Iraqi Christian lost from the population is killed, they are still being evicted from their sacred homeland. The emigrants forced into leaving are faced with a multitude of new problems. Many that are able to escape must travel hundreds or even thousands of miles away because neighboring countries also are frequently hostile towards Christians. These long travels easily get expensive and are different to pull off because multiple countries they could find refuge in require special document, which is a whole other expensive.

A familiar counter to the debate over Christianity being a cause of war in Iraq is that it is not religion that leads to the war but the people who lead it to war. This argument does have some merit to it, but 97% of the people in the nation identify as Islamic and the population of Christians in Iraq has been dwindling down due to the fact that they are being persecuted by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume religion is at least one of the causes of the war because the divide between the majority and the minority promotes the downfall of Christianity in Iraq.

Treatment of the Christians still living in, or that used to live in, Iraq is horrendous. The Almakos, who emigrated to the United States in 2014, recalled their experiences living as Christians in Iraq, Emma Green writes:

“Everybody who was working with the United States military — they get killed,” Catrin said. Evan had been injured by an explosion near a U.S. Army base in Mosul in 2004. Catrin worried about him driving back and forth to the base along highways that cross some of the most contested land in Iraq. Even after he stopped working for the military, they feared he might be a victim of violence. That fear was compounded by their faith: During the war years, insurgents consistently targeted Christian towns and churches in a campaign of terror” (Green, 2019).

Shortly after fully settling into their new life in the United States at Detroit, the Almakos were still given reason to worry. The Almakos had only brought their immediate family with them, leaving Catrin’s sisters in Karamles (Green, 2019). Less than three months since they arrived in Detroit, they received word of the Islamic State moving towards their old town in Iraq. Distraught, they attempted to reach their family members for days on end but in the end, no one answered.

The Almakos’ story is just one example of the persecution faced by Iraqi Christians in the Middle East. Mosul was recently seen as the last safe haven for Iraqi Christians but fell as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, invaded. Christians in Mosul face a much more direct form of discrimination than others. Homes are marked using the Arabic letter to publicly showcase to the community that the family living there is Christian, and not shortly after, the family is assaulted.


Several factors play a part in causing a war, but religion is one that is not looked into often even though it heavily affects it. Religion guides those who follow their gospel in their daily lives. That is why highly one-sided religious countries, such as Iraq, are prone to face war and conflicts within its borders. Christianity, undeniably, has been a contributing factor in the Iraq War and continues to be to this day. The Iraq War is not followed as closely by the media as it once was but the Iraqi Christians that still remain, face the same issues they did years ago. Their population numbers still continue to drop as the media ignores the obvious prejudice they face in their country. Several hundreds of people are trapped there with no way to escape and are forced to live in fear that any day could be their last and one day they may get killed solely based on the faith they choose to follow.    

16 December 2021
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