(Voice of the Persecuted) Hundreds of years before the Muslim prophet began receiving ‘revelations’ around 600AD, the beginnings of Islam, Christians have lived in the Iraqi city of Mosul for nearly 2,000 years.
ISIS militants imposing harsh Sharia law in Mosul (Iraq’s second largest city) gave Christians a 24 hour ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a steep tax in submission, leave, or be executed. Thousands of terrified Iraqi Christians evacuated their homes—many headed towards Kurdistan for protection. Unconfirmed reports claim only 20 Christian families still remain. About 100,000 Christians had resided in the city 10 years ago, but their numbers have diminished as they became targets of Islamic hardliners and ongoing violence.
CT reports the Vicar of Baghdad’ Canon Andrew White who visited the UK over the weekend said an ISIS presence was also in Baghdad. He added, “They just go around and shoot the odd person dead.”
“I can’t do anything. I can’t go and visit my people any more.”
“The only answer is that we stay together, we keep loving each other and loving God, that is all we can do. There is no solution in a place where you cannot even have a government.”
“Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”
He called on the British government to do more to help Christians fleeing Iraq.
On Monday, French ministers offered asylum to the thousands of Mosul Christians forced from their homes.
The offer was made in a statement, by Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, who said they were shocked by the persecution of the minority.
“France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness,” the statement said. “We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum on our territory.”
Present-day Mosul encompasses the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, where, the Bible teaches, the Prophet Jonah preached. Although this is disputed, a tradition holds that Jonah was buried within the city, on Tell Nebi Yunus, or Hill of the Prophet Jonah.
An Assyrian church stood over the tomb for centuries. After the Muslim conquest, the church became a mosque.
Last week, ISIS prevented worshipers from entering the mosque and using explosives reduced it to rubble, as a crowd looked on.
Claims that the destruction of the tomb was part of ISIS’s anti-Christian campaign. Another scholar, Sam Hardy, told the Washington Post that the destruction of the tomb shows that ISIS is willing to destroy “pretty much anything in the Bible.”
The violent jihadist group is part of the Salafi movement, a Sunni branch of Islam trying to cleanse the area of anyone who won’t follow an extreme form of Sharia, Islamic law. The movement rejects the centuries of subsequent developments in Islam as unjustified innovations–pagan accretions that adulterated the faith. The veneration of the tomb is considered by them as a kind of idolatry.
Salafi Islam is widespread in Saudi Arabia, where it enjoys the patronage of the royal family. On the Arabian Peninsula, as now in Iraq, Salafis have destroyed the tombs of Islamic holy men. When the Saudi royal family captured the city of Medina in the 19th century, Salafis systematically destroyed the tombs of several of the Prophet Mohammed’s companions and family members, leaving only the Prophet’s tomb. Some think that the Saudi government plans on dismantling even that tomb, but hesitates to do so because of the uproar it would cause.
The fighting between the Sunni Muslim militant group and the Shia-dominated Iraqi military gives us a glimpse into the wider sectarian war plaguing the country. For years, Sunnis and Shiites have been in disagreement with each other about everything from politics to religion to shares of national wealth, and have fought for power. That infighting is now presenting itself on the frontlines in the form of ethnic cleansing — a crime against humanity punishable under international law.
Ethnic cleansing is not easy to define, especially during wartime. At times, it is indistinguishable from forced emigration and it also merges with aspects of deportation and genocide. A 1993 report to the U.N. Security Council, during the Bosnian war, defined ethnic cleansing as “rendering an area ethnically homogenous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of a given group from the area.”
The group has been instilling fear by sharing videos of them executing innocent civilians.
Where is the moderate majority of Muslims doing more to stomp out the radical factions of Islam and protect minorities, throughout the Islamic world. To not take on this responsibility is consent of the extreme intolerance and violence and they will see the extremism continue to spread. One day, they too will find themselves forced to join the radicals or face the same type of oppression we’re witnessing today.
Please keep Christians, others being persecuted and the nation of Iraq in your prayers.
By L. Kanalos, Voice of the Persecuted