The Religious Freedom Project:
Christians in the Middle East & North Africa

Mission & Purpose

The Middle East & North Africa Religious Freedom Project is an effort to help Christians in the West to learn more about the Christian and Muslimcommunities of the Middle East, North and sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.  Our mission is to provide accurate information about the demographics of these communities, to gather accounts of their histories, and to provide accurate descriptions of the religious, legal, and cultural environments in which they live.

We created the MENA Religious Freedom Project in response to the increasing concerns for the safety, security, and economic well-being of these communities.  Churches have been bombed; priests, ministers, and bishops have been murdered; Christian-owned homes and businesses have been attacked; and thousands have fled.

In our view, it is not enough to report on these problems facing these communities. We must engage with them, to introduce their leaders, to understand their problems, and to work in solidarity with them to develop possible solutions.


We began our efforts in Iraqi Kurdistan, a federal region of Iraq the size of Austria, in June 2011 with a fact-finding trip to Iraqi Kurdistan.  In 2011 and 2012, we conducted research in the Kurdistan Region, and sponsored meetings and events in the United States and in the Kurdistan Region that were explicitly designed to create links between the Christian communities of the region and their counterparts in the United States.

The research carried out in Iraqi Kurdistan is based on extensive interviewing and a rigorous GIS-based survey of Christian households throughout the region. , provides strong evidence that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is making important efforts, and considerable progress, in establishing and supporting religious freedom for all of its residents, including non-Muslims.

Regional Focus

We chose the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) as the focus of our initial efforts because it has become a “safe haven” for beleaguered Christians who are fleeing the violence and oppression in the other governorates of Iraq and the carnage of the Syrian civil war.  This is no accident.  The KRI has long been a place where religious communities can live and work, side-by-side, as neighbors.

Like those living in other regions in Iraq, the people of the KRI suffered terribly at the hands of Saddam Hussein.  All of the KRI’s communities, Christian, Muslim, Yazidi, Kurd, Turcoman and others were victims.  They are now building a new society on the ashes of hundreds of villages destroyed by war and violence.



  • Prof. Robert A. Destro
    Professor of Law & Co-Director
    Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion
    Columbus School of Law
    The Catholic University of America
    as well as Co-Director MENA-RF Project
  • Prof. Carole A. O'Leary
    Visiting Adjunct Professor
    Near East South Asia Center (NESA)
    National Defense University (NDU)
    Washington, DC 20319
    as well as Co-Director MENA-RF Project
  • Prof. Marshall Breger
    Columbus School of Law
    The Catholic University of America
  • James M. Quirk, Ph.D.
    The Catholic University of America
    Department of Politics
  • Richard C. Michael
    Michael Moran Associates,
    Chevy Chase, MD
  • Wijnand D. Langeraar
    Michael Moran Associates,
    Bali, Indonesia


View our project findings on an interactive Google Map



Project downloads: Detailed Maps, reports and booklets



Presentations from The Catholic University of America



A collection of photographs taken during fieldwork