An al Qaeda splinter group has seized control of the Iraqi city of Mosul. Terrorists with the Islamic State have been withholding basic necessities such as food to Christians and Shiites in the town, trying to starve them into conversion or death. One worker said that he was warned that if he gave rations to Christians or Shiites, he will be charged and prosecuted according to sharia law.” The Assyrian News Agency has reported that the terrorists have destroyed the tomb of Jonah, and turned Christian areas of prayer into Muslim-controlled sites. They have also torn down the cross above the St. Ephrem Cathedral in Mosul – the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese and put up the Islamic flag in its place.
Christians in Iraq are pleading for Christians across the world to stand side by side with them as they are being crushed. The Islamist militants controlling Mosul have ordered all remaining Christians to leave town immediately or face execution. Christians in Mosul were given just 24 hours to leave the city. There was an immediate and sustained exodus of men, women and children from the city. Some begged for rides with neighbors whilst others tried to get taxis to the nearest Christian villages. They took nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Some reports suggest Christians have been stopped at checkpoints by militants and had money, jewelery, mobile phones and even medicines confiscated.
While sometimes the terrorists appear to abduct people for ransom, in many cases there have been quick executions. The United Nations report noted that extrajudicial killings had also been carried out by Iraqi security forces and allied militias, and warned that the executions on both sides might constitute war crimes. At least 1,531 civilians were killed in June alone, bringing the civilian death toll in the first half of the year to a minimum of 5,576, according to the United Nations human rights office in Geneva and the United Nations mission in Iraq. More than 600,000 people were driven from their homes during June alone, doubling the number of internally displaced people in Iraq to more than 1.2 million, the report added.
For the displaced Christians, their sudden departure has meant a series of treks-first to nearby Christian villages, already badly overcrowded, then to Kurdistan, a semiautonomous region of Iraq where there is more tolerance for Christians. As the Christians leave Mosul, the terrorists have painted the Arabic letter that means “Nazarene”, a word used to refer to Christians, on their homes. Next to the letter are the words, “Property of the Islamic State of Iraq.” The militants have also told Muslims who rent property from Christians that they no longer need to pay rent. Reports from the Kurdistan region said a Christian family attempting to pass through a local checkpoint were forced out of their car by terrorists, had their belongings confiscated, and ultimately forced to continue their journey on foot.
Many Christians have expressed a sense of utter abandonment and desolation as well as a recognition that the sound of church bells mingled with the Muslim calls to prayer, the ultimate symbol of Mosul’s tolerance, would likely never be heard again. It is a sad time for Christians. According to Patriarch Louis Sako – one of the most senior Christian clerics in Iraq – Christians from Mosul “are on their way to the neighboring autonomous region of Kurdistan.” The patriarch explained that the number of Christians in Mosel was as high as 60,000 before the US-led invasion of 2003, but after this past weekend, he says, “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.” This is an urgent call to the Church worldwide to rise up in prayer.
Going before the Father:
- Please pray for all Christians who have fled Mosul and those who are being forced out of other areas of Iraq and Syria by Islamic terrorists. Pray they reach their destinations safely and that they are welcomed with understanding. Please pray for spiritual strength for all Christians in Iraq, that they will trust God’s plan for their nation.
- Pray that more Christians in unrestricted nations will become aware of the plight of Christians in Iraq and become actively involved in petitioning their Governments to stand against the increasing persecution of Christians in the Middle-East..
- Pray that the terrorists and their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, would encounter the risen Christ and repent.