Three Generations of a Christian family that fled from the violence in Mosu. (photo credit:REUTERS)
For nearly six months, the eyes of the world have been focused on the most bloodthirsty and openly barbaric group of Islamist radicals ever to bludgeon its way across the Middle East in modern history.
“Islamic State” – aka ISIS or ISIL – a cult-like, burgeoning coalition of Sunni radicals led by a self-declared “caliph,” has horrified observers with its savage tactics and the bloodstained trail of rape, abduction, sex-trading, mutila – tion, beheading, and even crucifixion it leaves behind.
Since June 2014, ISIS has been especially notorious for its wanton expulsion of Christians from Iraq’s war-torn countryside. Yazidis, Kurds, and Shiite Muslims have not been spared either.
Islamic State’s battalions of thugs have forced “infidel” families from their homes, seizing all their material possessions as they drove them out. They have murdered and even beheaded resisters; raped women and children, and kidnapped young girls for sexual exploitation. They have also proudly publicized their acts on social media – apparently for the sole purpose of terrifying all who stand against them.
And it isn’t as if they’re chasing new – comers out of their Middle Eastern neighborhood. Christians were in Iraq long before Muhammad was born.
Iraq’s Christian community is hardly a western innovation or a colonial relic.
It dates from the 1st century, when two of Jesus’s disciples – St. Thomas and St.Thaddeus (also known as St. Jude) – preached the Gospel in what was then Assyria. There has been a Christian presence in Iraq ever since.
The heartland of their community has always been in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. There, in recent years, the Christian population has swelled, as refugees from Basra and Baghdad have sought protection.
And now, with Islamic State sweeping through Iraq, an estimated 150,000 have had to flee Mosul and their ancient Christian heartland, some for the second time in a decade.
Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute has traced the tragedy of Iraq’s persecuted Christians for more than a decade. She writes, “The wave of persecution that has been directed at Iraq’s Christians after 2003 has never received much attention by either President Bush or President Obama’s administrations, but it has been a grave human-rights problem.
“The campaign against Christians has encompassed 70 deliberate church bombings and assaults, as well as assassinations, an epidemic of kidnappings, and other attacks against clergy and laity alike. In recent years, particularly since 2004, a million of Iraq’s Christians have been driven out of the country by such atrocities. This can be rightly called targeted religious cleansing, and it is a crime against humanity.”