Iraqi Christians desperate to survive due to ISIS expansion, rampage

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Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
The murderous Islamic terrorist organization, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, IS, and ISIL), continues to expand its rampage and murdering hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians since ISIS came to light nearly a year ago and Christians are becoming increasingly desperate in surviving the attacks, the International Christian Concern (ICC) said Wednesday in an email. ICC recognizes the one-year anniversary of the fall of Mosul, Iraq to ISIS as Overnight, more than 500,000 fled the city and, since then, continued conflict throughout Iraq has pushed the total number of displaced Iraqi’s to over 3 million.

Iraq’s Christian and other religious minorities have been explicitly targeted by ISIS as they have set about to establish a restored caliphate in the new “Islamic State.” The fall of Mosul was the announcement to the world that ISIS, which had taken an increasingly prominent role among the Sunni opposition groups fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, had returned to Iraq and planned to stay. ISIS was the outgrowth of a group previously known as Islamic State of Iraq, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, that had expanded into Syria and eventually split with Al-Qaeda and its recognized Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra.

The assault on Mosul had started days before June 10 with a small number of militants on the outskirts of the city. With an estimated 30,000 Iraqi soldiers believed to be posted in Mosul, residents believed the city would be safe. “Something suddenly happened… the leaders of the army fled, then the soldiers fled,” Sinan, a Mosul resident now in Erbil in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, had told ICC. ICC stated that an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 Christians have been driven out of their homes in Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plain, areas that have been home to Christians for nearly 2,000 years. Mosul was believed to have a population of about 35,000 Christians, down from 60,000 in 2003.

According to AINA, all 45 of Mosul’s churches and Christian institutions have been taken by ISIS or destroyed. In the days following the assault on Mosul, ISIS issued an ultimatum that all Christians must leave the city or else convert to Islam, pay a jizya, or else they would be killed. “The chant of “convert to Islam or die” was blasting from the speakers on trucks driving around the city,” Karam of AINA told ICC. Many fled first from Mosul to Christian villages in the surrounding areas, but by early August 2014, ISIS also took Qaraqosh, known as Iraq’s Christian capital, and home to some 50,000 Christians. The entire area has been emptied of its Christians for the first time in approximately 1,800 years.

On June 29, 2014, the first day of Ramadan, ISIS declared the reestablishment of the “Islamic Caliphate” and appointed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Caliph, purporting to be the leader of all Muslims and successor to the Prophet Muhammad. In nearly one year since that pronouncement, ISIS has strengthened its grasp on a large swath of land across Iraq and Syria and continues to mount offensives moving toward the capitals of both countries, ICC reported.

Todd Daniels, regional manager for the Middle East ICC said, “The situation for Iraq’s Christian community is dire. ISIS has set their targets squarely on the heartland of Christianity and is intent on erasing it completely in its attempt to establish an “Islamic State.” While the world’s leaders debate over strategy, hundreds of thousands remain in desperate need for just their next meal or protection from the brutal summer heat. The church around the world must raise their voices and move to act on behalf of the Christians of Iraq or else we are likely to see the final days of Christianity in lands that have been home to Christians for nearly 2,000 years.”

Despite airstrikes from a coalition led by the United States and other countries, and supporting Iraqi military forces on the ground, ISIS has fulfilled its proclaimed motto of “remaining and expanding.” For the more than 100,000 Christians who have been driven from their homes and for the 3 million who have been displaced, the humanitarian crisis remains urgent and the prospects of returning home in the near future remain dim. With the upcoming one-year anniversary of the Islamic State’s declaration of Caliphate, questions are being raised on whether ISIS will attack on the June 29, 2015 anniversary due to a Jihad guide which has called the one-year anniversary a “date right up there with 11th September 2001.”