The Mar Behnam monastery near Mosul, Iraq
As Christians flee
Northern Iraq to escape persecution by Islamic extremists, the BBC reports
that the 1,700-year-old Mar Behnam monastery, near Mosul, has been seized by
ISIS forces and the community of monks who lived there ordered to leave taking “only
the clothes they were wearing.”
The Mar Behnam monastery is run by the Syriac Catholic Church
and is near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, to the south-east of
A member of the Syriac clergy quoted
the militants as telling the monastery's residents: "You have no place
here any more, you have to leave immediately."
said the monks asked to be allowed to save some of the monastery's relics but
the fighters refused.
Christian residents told AFP news agency that the monks walked for several
miles before they were picked up by Kurdish fighters.
this month, Isis issued an ultimatum in Mosul, citing a historic contract known
as "dhimma," under which non-Muslims in Islamic societies who refuse
to convert are offered protection if they pay a fee, called a
offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of
jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword," the Isis
Isis issued a similar ultimatum in the
Syrian city of Raqqa in February, calling on Christians to pay about half an
ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety.
is home to one of the world's most ancient Christian communities but its
population has dwindled amid growing sectarian violence since the US-led
invasion in 2003.
Meanwhile, the Italian press is reporting that over the
weekend Pope Francis telephoned the patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church, Patriarch Ignatius Youssef
III Younan, to assure him of his prayers for the Christians of Iraq. From
Catholic News Agency’s story:
[Italian Catholic news agency SIR] reports that during their
9 minute conversation, the Pope reassured the patriarch “that he follows
closely and with concern the drama of forced and threatened Christians in the
Iraqi city of Mosul.”
referred to other reports coming from the Syrian-Catholic Patriarchate, which
stated that Patriarch Younan “thanked the Pope” and asked him to “intensify”
his efforts to engage world leaders by bringing them face-to-face with the fact
that the province of Nineveh is undergoing “a mass cleaning based on religion.”
end of the call Pope Francis gave his apostolic blessing to the patriarch and
to “all the Christian people of the East,” assuring that he “will always be
present in his prayers for peace and security.”