The Surchi of Iraq
Because little specific information is known about the Surchi living in Iraq, the information in this profile is based on their relationship to the Kurdish groups in Iraq. It is thought that their language may be a dialect of Kurmanji. In addition, they share many features with the Kurds. Consequently, they are assumed to live in the same region as other Kurmanji speakers in Iraq, an area that mainly includes the inaccessible mountains of northeastern Iraq along the border of Iran. However, some Kurds have fled further north to escape Saddam Hussein and the devastation of the Gulf War.
The Surchi are said to have played a prominent role among the Kurds in seeking autonomy from the Baghdad regime. Many live as refugees in the "safe zone" created after the war. Others are active in the Kurdistan Conservative Party (KCP). Recently, they have been attacked by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), even though political parties have generally honored a cease-fire agreement for the past two years.
What are their lives like?
The agonizing history of Iraq has long been marked by great religious and ethnic conflict. Following a violent revolution in 1958, Iraq became a repressive dictatorship. As close relatives of the Kurds, the Surchi have likely suffered discrimination and persecution, the most severe instance being the use of chemical warfare against them in recent years. The main goal of the Surchi, according to their party program, is to establish a protectorate over the Mosul Province (identified on KCP maps as all of northern Iraq). The KCP argues for a referendum in order to determine whether northern Iraq should be independent or part of Turkey or Iraq.
The Surchi live much the same as their Kurdish relatives. They are essentially peasants who make a living primarily through farming and by raising cattle and goats. In the mountainous regions, their cultivation system is intensive. With their large herds of sheep and goats, they produce dairy products. Unfortunately, their semi-nomadic, farming lifestyle hinders them from receiving formal education.
Many Surchi supplement their farming incomes through various means. Some are skilled in weaving kilims (patterned, flat-woven, wool rugs). Since their homeland is one of Iraq's major oil producing areas, some of the Surchi lived in cities and worked in the oil industry prior to the Gulf War.
The most important Surchi national festival is the New Year celebration, which is held on March 21. This long ceremony may continue for a week or more. Many specific foods and condiments are prepared in advance. Special flowers are grown for the occasion, and branches covered with fresh buds are cut and used as decorations. New clothes are worn, and old pottery is broken for good luck. People visit each other's homes, and old feuds and misunderstandings are reconciled. Gifts are given by seniors to their juniors in age, and high ranking social figures are paid visits and awarded with gifts.
What are their beliefs?
Nearly all Surchi are Muslims (99.8%), having first embraced Islam after the Arab conquests of the seventh century. Today, they look to Islam as a basis for social justice. Muslim religious dignitaries are treated with respect. They are also sought after for political favors, thus proving that the Kurdish struggle for political identity is greater than their struggle for religious unity.
What are their needs?
In the areas where the Surchi live, water is scarce. In addition, diseases such as trachoma, tuberculosis, and malaria threaten the population. Humanitarian aid workers and medical teams are needed to live and work among the Surchi.
Like the Kurds, the Surchi have not been free to express their own culture. They have been persecuted and displaced throughout their history. Loving Christians who can show acceptance to the Surchi are needed to minister to them. Only then can the Surchi find the peace, love, and security that come from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to send Christian workers who can minister the acceptance of Jesus to the Surchi of Iraq.
- Pray for Christian doctors and humanitarian aid workers to share the love of Jesus with the Surchi.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the three missions agencies that are targeting the Surchi.
- Ask the Lord to raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Surchi language.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to make bold witnesses out of the small number of Surchi believers.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Surchi bound.
- Ask God to raise up a mighty army of prayer warriors who will intercede for the Surchi.
- Pray that strong local churches will be established among the Surchi by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Surchi
- Country: Iraq
- Their language: Surchi
- Largest religion:
- Christian: <1%
- Church members: 20
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 3
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 1,900 (19%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 8,300 (81%)
- Country: Iraq
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 22
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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