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31,129,225 (July 2012 est.)


$3,900 (2011 est.)


Muslim (official) 97% (Shia 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3% note: while there has been voluntary relocation of many Christian families to northern Iraq, recent reporting indicates that the overall Christian population may have dropped by as much as 50 percent since the fall of the Saddam HUSSEIN regime in 2003, with many fleeing to Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon



Interviews (23)

Over its long history, Iraq has been both a center of cosmopolitan civilization and a site of sectarian conflict. Baghdad was the intellectual capital of the Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age between the 8th and 13th centuries. During much of its history, it hosted a vibrant and religiously diverse population, including substantial numbers of Jews and Christians. By the late 18th century, the majority of the population had converted from Sunni to Shi’a Islam, creating a sectarian divide that persists to this day. The Arab Sunni minority exerted political dominance under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein (1979-2003), with Hussein persecuting Shi’as and the Kurds of northern Iraq. Since U.S.-led forces ousted Hussein in a 2003 invasion, Shi’as and Sunnis have vied for control through both electoral competition and violence. Iraq’s Constitution establishes Islam as the official religion of the democratic state and requires that no law contradict Islam. Religious freedom is also guaranteed, though sectarian violence effectively restricts its exercise, particularly for minority faiths.

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  • March 21, 2011
    Background: This discussion preceded a consultation on faith and development in South and Central Asia in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on January 10-11, 2011. The interview was conducted by telephone between Katherine Marshall, Michael Bodakowski and Bedreldin Shutta, and was finalized following an email exchange in March 2011. In this interview, Mr. Shutta discusses his motivations to work with a faith-inspired organization after a long career with secular development organizations. He reflects on his...
  • November 26, 2010
    Background: During this exchange with Michael Bodakowski and Katherine Marshall in November of 2010, Visaka Dharmadasa discusses her work to build sustainable peace in Sri Lanka. She recounts how she came to establish the organizations Parents of Servicemen Missing in Action and the Association of War Affected Women after her own son was declared missing-in-action. Describing the role of the Catholic Church in building bridges in Sri Lanka, Ms. Dharmadasa highlights the universal religious...
  • November 24, 2010
    Background: Thoraya Obaid and Katherine Marshall sat down to reflect on Dr. Obaid's engagement with faith actors during a UN staff workshop in Turin, Italy in November 2010. In addition to discussing the upcoming stages of her career, after she leaves UNFPA in December 2010, the conversation builds on earlier exchanges and explores both the positive and less enthralling aspects of Dr. Obaid's longstanding determination to actively take culture and religion into account in pursuing UNFPA's...
  • November 22, 2010
    Background: Background: This discussion took place in preparation for a consultation on faith and development in South and Central Asia, held in Dhaka, Bangladesh January 10-11, 2011. The consultation is an endeavor of the World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD) and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University, with support from the Henry R. Luce Foundation. Its aim is to take stock of the wide range of ongoing work by different organizations that are,...
  • July 8, 2010
    Background: This July 2010 exchange with Katherine Marshall took place outlines the origins of Amina Sasul-Bernardo’s work to bring Filipino Muslim women more visibly and centrally into peace work. She emphasizes that Southeast regional dimensions of this work have grown, highlighting the ways in which often invisible potential for social action can be transmitted into new domains. She explores why women, when given the opportunity and sound tools, can be the most effective peacebuilders.

  • July 6, 2010
    Background: This June 2010 conversation between Maryann Cusimano Love and Susan Hayward focuses on Maryann's academic work in seeking to bridge the U.S. Government and organizations within the international relations field that have often failed to engage “religious actors and factors” with faith-based organizations and communities that are involved in peacebuilding and development. Though religious groups are not powerful economic actors, they have significant clout with grassroots networks...
  • July 1, 2010
    Background: This July 2010 discussion between Filiz Odabas-Geldiay and Katherine Marshall was in preparation for the USIP/Berkley Center/WFDD review of women, religion, and peace. Filiz traces her path to her present roles, which took her from Istanbul, Turkey, to many places and professional challenges, and highlights her commitment to the humanistic approach of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Support for women is integral to his approach and thus his movement. That approach to peace is...
  • July 1, 2010
    Background: As part of the Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding Fellowship, Christopher O'Connor interviewed Yusuf Arrigasiyyu, Executive Director of the Muslim League for Accountability (MULAC). Yusuf Arrigasiyyu, who oversees the association’s initiatives, believes that good governance will ultimately lead to a more peaceful Nigeria.
  • June 30, 2010
    Background: This discussion (on June 30, 2010) focuses on the Women PeaceMakers Program at the University of San Diego, which Dr. Aker created and directs. It involves intensive efforts to document and share the work of women from all world regions who are practitioners working for peace. While religion is not an explicit element of the program, Aker observes that very different world religions often provide a common unifying thread among the women and many cite the personal inspiration of...
  • June 8, 2010
    Background: This June 2010 exchange between Qamar-ul Huda and Susan Hayward focuses on Huda’s experiences as a Pakistani-American, which led him into the field of Islamic peacemaking, and his work for USIP in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • June 5, 2010
    Background: This June 2010 exchange between Manal Omar and Susan Hayward highlights Omar’s experiences and insights into religion and its intersection with women's empowerment, development, and peacemaking, particularly with respect to Muslim women in the Middle East. She speaks to the challenges she herself faces as a spiritually devout Muslim woman operating in an often secular-biased development field, and she emphasizes the need to build relationships between secular and religious women.
  • May 18, 2010
    Background: This May 2010 exchange between Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana and Susan Hayward focuses on Dr. Kadayifci-Orellan's experience leading workshops on Islamic peacemaking in the Middle East, and her observations of women's roles, absences, and strengths for peacemaking. She also reflects on the challenges women religious peacemakers face, and gulfs that separate secular and religious women working for empowerment and peace.

  • May 1, 2010
    Background: This June, 2010 exchange between Susan Hayward and Katherine Marshall focuses on experiences that have inspired Susan Hayward to press for more purposeful exploration of the issues of women, religion, and peace, notably drawing on her work in Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Iraq. She highlights her growing concern about the sidelined roles of women in work for peace and the need to turn women’s issues into a central, not a peripheral concern. Instead of favoring the plans and agendas of...
  • April 29, 2010
    Background: This exchange with Azza Karam was part of preparatory work for a WFDD/Berkley Center/USIP conference on women, religion, and peace on July 7-8, 2010. Ms. Karam and Katherine Marshall spoke by telephone on April 6, 2010 in preparation for the interview conducted on April 29, 2010. The discussion focuses on Ms. Karam's experience in building networks of women involved in peace, and her ongoing research on the topic. Her interest in the topic stems both from her lifelong commitment...
  • April 7, 2010
    Background: This May 2010 exchange between Dena Merriam and Katherine Marshall highlights Ms. Merriam’s pioneering work in creating a Global Initiative for women that centers on women. She recounts how she has come to see women's spiritual voices as critical to global peace, and why their voices and the agendas and energy they reflect result in differences in approach and outcome. Her initiative has taken shape over the past decade, born of the glaring gap in women's roles at the pivotal...
  • November 25, 2009
    Background: Gunnar Stålsett pursues world peace through many routes and he is a leading global advocate for international development and for engaging religious communities on social justice and solidarity issues. In this interview he speaks about his long and varied career, above all through this lens of peace and social justice.
  • November 11, 2009
    Background: This discussion took place as part of preparations for a consultation on faith and development in Southeast Asia, held in Phnom Penh Cambodia December 14-15 2009. The consultation, an endeavor of the World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD), the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University, with support from the Luce Foundation, and the University of Cambodia, took stock of the wide range of ongoing work by different organizations that are, in...
  • October 29, 2009
    Background: In 1999 Robert A. Seiple became the first US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF). Responsible for establishing the new post within the Department of State, Seiple and the IRF initiative were not always eagerly received at home or abroad. Interviewed by the Berkley Center's Thomas Farr on October 28, 2009, Seiple muses about how his Christian beliefs and life experiences prepared him for this job, why he took it, how it challenged him personally and...
  • May 3, 2009
    Background: In 1992, Rev. Canon Gideon Byamugisha, an Anglican priest in Uganda, became the first African religious leader to openly admit to being HIV-positive. Following his disclosure to the public, he began to speak widely to other leaders about the need to reduce stigma associated with the disease. In 2000 he founded the Africa Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS. In the following discussion between Rev. Byamugisha and Thomas Bohnett, he describes...
  • June 13, 2008
    Background: Peter Grant has been the International Director of Tearfund, an organization which works to alleviate poverty and provide humanitarian relief in disaster situations, since 2005. Grant talked about his own faith background, and about the way in which Tearfund's evangelical Christian orientation influences its advocacy, hiring practices, and role in the development community. He spoke about the priority that Tearfund places on working with local churches, and raised some of the...
  • December 3, 2007
    Background: Dr. Hany El-Banna is Co-Founder and President of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), an international relief and development organization that aims to alleviate the poverty and suffering of the world's poorest. He is a member of the Three Faiths Forum and was selected to be a member in the World Economic Forum's Community of West-Islam Dialogue (C-100). El Banna is also a trustee of the Disasters Emergency Committee and a member of the Advisory Group to the International Department of...
  • November 23, 2007
    Background: Dr. Hasan Ali Yurtsever is President of the Rumi Forum, an organization founded in 1999 to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue, and teaches in the Math department at Georgetown. He participated in the symposium on “Global Development and Faith-Inspired Organizations in the Muslim World,” co-sponsored by the Berkley Center, in December 2007. Yurtsever has a long history of participation in the Gulen Movement, which began in Turkey under Fethullah Gulen and has spread...
  • March 23, 2007
    Background: This discussion between Hady Amr and Katherine Marshall took place as part of the preparatory work for an April 16, 2007 conference on faith-based organizations and global development policy. In this interview, Mr. Amr highlights the need for further exploration of the dynamics of faith-based organizations, and how they differ from their secular counterparts. He speaks about his own experiences working with Islam and development in the Middle East, and concludes that faith is "the...