Iraq is composed of a rich diversity of ethno-religious groups spanning across the nation. As a majority Shi’a country, with a significant Sunni population, Iraq is also home to Kaka’i, and Christian believers, among other minority faith groups. Religion also cuts across ethnic and tribal lines, with the affiliations of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Shabaks, etc. differing according to the region for geographic and historic reasons. Political allegiances and agendas make use of religious and ethnic identities to further gains and shape inter- and intra-communal dynamics, producing detrimental repercussions for communal social cohesion. Intermittent violence since 2003, particularly following the 2014 ISIL insurgency, has dissipated inter- and Intra- community trust, with fractures often manifesting along religious and ethnic lines. For instance, widespread distrust persists among Sunni Arabs, Turkmen, and Kurds across the nation, while political allegiances divide the Yazidis. The latter also blame Sunni Muslims for the abduction of their women and suspect them of sympathizing with ISIL, a suspicion shared by security forces in the region.
Joint Initiative for Strategic Religious Action (JISRA) is an interfaith partnership – including Catholic, Islamic, Protestant, interreligious and secular consortium partners, and local partners – which will promote Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in Iraq, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, and Uganda. JISRA in Iraq consists of a consortium of three international NGOs, namely Search, Tearfund, and Mensen met een Missie (MM), as well as local partners, Peace and Freedom Organization (PFO) and Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq (CAPNI).
JISRA aims to address and transform intra-, inter-, and extra-religious dynamics in Iraq to promote FoRB through direct and local partner implementation across Iraq. JISRA will work within religious communities to challenge discrimination, extremist tendencies, and hate towards others (intrareligious sphere). We will facilitate and strengthen bridges between religious communities by encouraging interreligious action and addressing common grievances (interreligious sphere). JISRA will also engage with local, national, and international authorities to make state actions toward religious freedom more effective, and challenge divisive policies and practices (extra-religious sphere). Additionally, the JISRA program in Iraq will integrate a number of strategies for ensuring activities not only ‘Do No Harm’ to the rights of these demographics but provide fertile ground for supporting broader freedom of belief and respect for different points of view.
- Combat discrimination, violence, and persecution on the grounds of religion or belief, in particular of vulnerable minorities
- Promote freedom of religion and belief, especially for minorities within religious or faith-based groups
- The JISRA consortium established a multi-organizational executive body that consists of three international and two local NGOs managing the JISRA consortium
- JISRA has delivered the Common Ground Approach to all program members and 100 stakeholders in Sinjar, Ninewa Plains, and Kirkuk
- Establishment of a lobby and advocacy working group that advocates for FoRB in Iraq. Working group members work with parliamentarians, faith and community leaders for a more meaningful impact
- A five-day conflict transformation training was delivered to local facilitators and program teams to improve the capacity of stakeholders in Sinjar, Ninewa Plains, and Kirkuk
- Hosting dialogue sessions across Ninewa Plains and Kirkuk with multiple faith groups, including Muslims, Christians, and Kakais
- JISRA Case Study – FoRB Ministerial Conference
- JISRA in Iraq – Baseline Research
- JISRA Case Study – Empowerment Through Cohesion
- JISRA Press Statement – Interfaith Harmony Week 2023 (English)
- JISRA Press Statement – Interfaith Harmony Week 2023 (Kurdish)
- JISRA Press Statement – Interfaith Harmony Week 2023 (Arabic)
- JISRA Case Study – Inter-religious dialogues: A space for community-led discussions on religion and acceptance