Religious practices and acceptance vary throughout the world. Western countries are seen as being more tolerant of those that practice a minority religion, while countries in the Middle East are seen by most as more discriminatory against those that do not believe in that countries dominant faith. The two most popular religions worldwide are Christianity, which 31.5 percent of the global population practices, and Islam, which has 23.2 percent of follows internationally (The Global). Christianity is the most followed faith in the United States, while Islam is the most followed faith in Iraq. While the two religions are somewhat similar to each other, Islam is often negatively stereotyped in the US and Christians are persecuted in Iraq. While they may be looked down upon in certain countries, Muslims and Christians alike continue to express there faith.
ABC News reports that a staggering eighty-three percent of Americans identify as Christians. Thirteen percent of Americans say that they do not practice any religion, which means that people that practice non-Christian religions, such as Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, only make up four percent of the population (Poll). I would fall into the category of the grouping of the eighty-three percent of Americans that practice Christianity. Most people would describe me as being “raised in the Church.” I went to Catholic schools for 15 years, and I could easily count the number of times that I have missed Sunday morning Church services. Because I have been so involved with the Church throughout my life, I have been greatly influenced by it. Christianity has laid the foundation for the type of person that I am. Because I am a Christian in the United States, I can openly express my faith without fear of persecution by the government. People choose to express their beliefs through different platforms, such as music, writing, and speech. I choose to express this important element in my life through photography. Capturing others express their faith helps me to express my faith. I like to believe that my photographs also help my audience to get a better sense of their faith.
The religious practices of those in United States drastically differ from those in the Iraq — the third most dangerous country for Christians. Christians only make up three percent of the practiced religions, while an estimated ninety-seven percent are either Sunni or Shi’a Muslims. These numbers may be inaccurate because, unlike the United States, Iraq has a declared religion, which means that some people may falsely report their practices (Iraq). Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, it was illegal for Churches to open in the country, which caused Sami Dagher, a reverend, to open a Church with the that it was a nursery (Lodge). Hussein, who exploited the religious practices of his citizens, also arrested and executed many, including non Christians, for their religious beliefs (Iraq). Although much of the persecution of Christians has lightened in the country, many of the negative feelings of those who are against Christianity remain. In fact, it is illegal for a Christian to attempt to convert a Muslim. Also, if a Muslim converts to Christianity, they are subject to backlash, which could possibly lead to execution. Much of the persecution in the country in recent years has been linked to ISIL, also known as ISIS. Because of the ISIS militant group, over 125,000 Christians have had to flee their homes as of March 2015. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have stormed notable Christian cities in Iraq, such as the Nineveh Plains, and have left them destroyed and empty. ISIS rebels have also taken families from their homes and have forced them to convert to Islam (Logan).
One of the main similarities between practicing Islam in America and Christianity in Iraq and other countries, is the inability to practice those faiths in their respective counties without an overwhelming fear of backlash. While I, and other Christians, can openly express our faith to others without a fear of a severe adverse reaction in America, many Muslims are being wrongfully associated with the negative stereotypes that come with their faith. Stereotypes that affiliate Muslims with terrorism, even though most Muslims are not Jihadists. Both groups harbor fear of violence against them because of their faiths, which in turn, causes many people to deny their beliefs. Muslims unaffiliated with 9/11 have been interrogated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, fought to build Mosques, and have otherwise been treated as if they are less American than those who do not practice their faith.
Followers of Christianity in Iraq and believers of Islam in America both face difficulties, although the difficulties are more severe in the Middle Eastern country. Members of both groups continue to openly practice their faith even though they may experience anguish. The mentioned Muslims and Christians that continue to practice their faith, whether privately or openly, show that there is more to faith than public appearance. When someone truly believes in their religion, they will ignore the backlash and stay true to themselves and who they believe in regardless of the outcome. Works Cited
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Lodge, Carey. “Iraq: Despite Thousands Fleeing ISIS, Churches Are Full of New Believers.” Christian Today. Christian Today, 9 June 2015. Web. 10 Oct. 2015.
Logan, Lara. “Iraq’s Christians Persecuted by ISIS.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 22 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 Oct. 2015.
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