Merry Christmas to All Christian Kurds!

Many people might be surprised to know that there are still tens of thousands of Christian Kurds despite all the attempts to change their religion by conquests and wars. The first Yazidi Kurdish groups were converted to Christianity after a Greek monk, priest and saint Mar Saba (439–532), succeeded in converting them during the fifth century.

The ecclesiastical language of Christian Kurds was Aramaic as they used it for their records and archives. Later on, they were persecuted in the Persian Sasanian Empire and the conquest by Islamic forces in Kurdistan and the Middle East, both led to the isolation of Christianity.

Many Christians who only spoke Kurdish in west and north of Kurdistan had to even leave their homes during the fall of the Ottoman Empire for the French Mandate in Syria and Lebanon where they had to be considered as Armenian immigrants.

After the Arab and Islamic conquests, the majority of Kurds adopted Islam but they were practically heated as their faith sat slightly on the Sassanid Empire. Later on, the Ottoman Empire Turks started to promote Islam amongst Kurds for political reasons to attach the Kurds to themselves.
Some of the Kurds also converted to Christianity in the ninth century, like Narseh, a man who converted to Christianity and changed his name to Theophobos. He was the Emperor Theophilus’s intimate friend and commander for many years.

Kurdzman Church of Christ logo
Kurdzman Church of Christ logo

Kurdish Christian soldiers were 2.7% of the total number of soldiers in the city of Shayzar in Syria between the 11th and the 12th centuries. [6]
You might be surprised (especially if you are Armenian) to know that the ancestors of Armenian family of the Zakarids, were Christianised Kurds, this family that ruled parts of northern Armenia in the 13th century and tried to reinvigorate intellectual activities by founding new monasteries. Two brothers of this family, Zakare and Ivane led the army to victory in Ani in 1199.
During the 1800s, a larger number of Kurds were following Christianity. And later on, many known Kurdish figures converted to it too, some even were Muslim religion figures.

One of the most extraordinary cases was the Kurdish leader in Iraqi Kurdistan, Sheikh Ahmed Barzani, the brother of Mustafa Barzani, who announced his conversion to Christianity during his uprising against the Iraqi government in 1931.
Today, the number of Christian Kurds are still uncertain, however, an educated guess suggest that it reaches to tens of thousands, excluding the Assyrians, with whom many Christian Kurds assimilated into. They locate mostly in the districts of Hakkâri in north-central Kurdistan, Tur Abdin in western Kurdistan, as well as within the Milân and Barâz tribal confederacies in western Kurdistan in Turkey and Syria.

Christmas celebrations in Qamishlo, Rojava by Delil Suleiman
Christmas celebrations in Qamishlo, Rojava by Delil Suleiman

Most recently, The Kurdish-Speaking Church of Christ, known as The Kurdzman Church of Christ, was established in Hewlêr (Erbil) by the end of 2000, and has branches in Sulaymaniah and Duhok. The importance of this church comes from the fact that it is the first evangelical Kurdish church in Iraq. Its logo is formed of a yellow sun and a cross rising up behind a mountain range. Kurdzman Church of Christ holds conferences in Erbil with the participation of many Kurdish converts.

Some sources suggest that 500 Kurdish Muslim youths have converted to Christianity since 2006 throughout Kurdistan, mainly from Iraqi Kurdistan. Some Christian Kurds in Stockholm even established a church called ‘Jîyanî Nu’ (New Life) in 2012.

Merry Christmas to all the Christian Kurds from ZÎV Team!