Iraq’s Beleaguered Christian Community Offered Asylum by France

PARIS – France said on Monday it was ready to welcome Christians from northern Iraq who have been told by the al Qaeda-inspired militant group now ruling the region to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death. Insurgents with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) seized large swaths of northern Iraq last month, prompting hundreds of Christian families in Mosul to flee a city which has hosted the faith since its earliest years. “We are providing aid to displaced people fleeing from the threats,” France’s foreign and interior ministers said in a joint statement. “We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier this month condemned the treatment of the Christians and instructed a government committee to help those made homeless. However, he has not said when the army might try to win back control of Mosul. ISIS has warned all women in Mosul to wear full-face veils or risk severe punishment. The Sunni insurgents, who have declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, also view Iraq’s majority Shiites as infidels who deserve to be killed.