In a June 12th post, Michael J. Miller passed along the bad news that Christians were being driven out completely of the city of Mosul, which is located in northern Iraq and had an estimated population well over two million:
After the capture of the northern-Iraqi metropolis Mosul by Islamist forces, all the Christians who were still living there have now fled. The Catholic Archbishop of the city, Amil Shamaaoun Nona, corroborated this while speaking with the worldwide Catholic relief service Aid to the Church in Need. “All the faithful have left the city. Who knows whether they will ever be able to return,” Abp. Nona said. “In 2003 there were still 35,000 faithful living in Mosul. Three thousand were still there in early 2014. Now probably not one is left here, and that is tragic,” the Archbishop declared. The city of Mosul, with a population of three million, was already mentioned in the Bible as Nineveh, and for thousands of years it has been a place of Christian civilization.
The oldest monastery in Iraq, St. Elijah’s Monastery, is located south of Mosul, dating from the sixth century. Now, for the first time in sixteen centuries, there are no Sunday Masses being celebrated in the city, as reported by Christianity Today:
The Chaldean Catholic Church’s Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, in Kurdish-governed northern Iraq, is reported as saying that for the first time in 1,600 years there was no Mass said in Mosul on Sunday June 15. This is the city taken over days before by ISIS forces.
Reports say the estimated 3,000 or so Christians still there – from about 35,000 in 2003 – all fled ahead of the militias’ takeover of control, although some families were reported to have returned. They cited lack of job prospects and shelter once they’d become internally displaced, or refugees in Kurdish Iraq.
The radical Sunni Islamist ISIS forces, not surprisingly, have pinpointed the few remaining Christians in the wider region with barbaric violence:
Meanwhile a member of Iraq’s High Commission on Human Rights Dr. Sallama Al Khafaji has told an Arabic news website, Al Sumaria, that last Saturday, June 21 ISIS began to demand a poll tax (jizya) from Christians in Mosul. In a custom rooted in medieval times, under strict Islamic law, Christians were required to have to pay protection money and are not allowed to publicly express their faith.
Dr Al Khafaji is reported to have said that in one case, ISIS members entered the home of an Assyrian family to demand it. She reports that when the Assyrian family said they did not have the money, three ISIS members raped the mother and daughter in front of the husband and father. The husband and father was so traumatized that he committed suicide, she reported.
News.va, the official Vatican news network, reports:
The Syrian Archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Moshe has appealed to the international community for quick action to stop the deterioration of the situation in Qaraqosh. Nearly all Christians of the Syrian Catholic Church have fled in the past few days due to the offensive of the Sunni insurgents led by the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The town in the last few days has seen the arrival of weapons and new contingents to strengthen the Kurdish Peshmerga militias that oppose the advance of the Sunni insurgents. The impression is that the ground is being prepared for a head-on collision.
In this dramatic situation, from Qaraqosh Archbishop Moshe through Fides Agency wants to launch an urgent humanitarian appeal to the international community: “Before the tragedy being experienced by our people”, the Archbishop says to Fides, “I appeal to the consciences of political leaders around the world, to international organizations and to all men of good will: it is necessary to intervene immediately to put a stop to the deterioration of the situation, working not only at a humanitarian level, but also politically and diplomatically. Every hour, every day lost, is likely to make all unrecoverable. Inaction becomes complicity with crime and abuse of power. The world cannot turn a blind eye to the tragedy of people who have fled from their homes in a few hours, taking with them only the clothes they are wearing”.
Qaraqosh is about 30 kilometres south-east of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, where armed opposition groups seized control two weeks ago.