Relief as Five Missing Christians Released, But Dangers Still Abound for Iraq’s Christians

07/15/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that two nuns, Sister Miskintah and Sister Atur Joseph, and three orphans have been released after being held for 17 days near Mosul, Iraq. The five went missing on June 28th from Mosul and were held until being released on Monday. While there is a sense of relief over their release, the Christian community remains concerned about both their present and future in Iraq.

The two nuns ran a foster home for orphans near Mosul. When the Islamic State of Iraq and al Shams (ISIS) first attacked Mosul on June 9, the sisters were able to safely move all of the children out of Mosul to Dohuk in the Kurdish controlled region of Northern Iraq. “Sister Atur made quick visits to Mosul to check on the house and retrieve some of the girls’ belongings and work and study kits,” the Ankawa news site reports. “The two nuns disappeared on 28 June along with three of the young orphans who accompanied them on one of these brief visits to Mosul.”

The nuns have been praised for their faithful service despite the incredible difficulties Iraq has faced over the past decade. “In all these terrible years for our country, Sisters Atur and Miskinta have done a great job, without ever abandoning Mosul and allowing the girls to study,” Sister Luigina Sako told Fides on June 30.

After the sisters were discovered to be missing, church authorities contacted religious leaders of Mosul’s Sunni community immediately, to keep the situation under control and ensure that the individuals who had been stopped by ISIS militants were granted complete freedom of movement, Vatican Insider reported. “We were extremely worried for them, especially for the girls. We are overjoyed by the news that came from Dohuk today,” Sister Sako said.

“The nuns and the children were kept in a house, they were given food and were not treated badly,” says Patriarch Louis Raphael I. No ransom was paid for their release, the foster home, however, was ransacked and their car confiscated, he told Fides.

“There is a great feeling of rejoicing over having these five released,” Joseph Kassab, president of Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment, told ICC. “But the future is very unclear for Iraq’s Christians. It is bleak at this time. There is a lot of uncertainty and fear for their lives and for survival as a community. People are on the edge,” he continued.

Reports continue to emerge of the deteriorating situation in Iraq. ISIS has been imposing their extreme interpretation of Islamic rule in Mosul, and the land they control, spanning from central Iraq to northwestern Syria. Hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes, access to drinking water and food and sanitation is creating a humanitarian crisis for those displaced from their homes.

Todd Daniels, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “We rejoice at the safe return of Sisters Atur and Miskinta and the three young people with them. We remain extremely concerned about the fate of Iraq’s Christians. As a religious minority they are facing threats from both sides in the conflict and ensuring their survival is a burden that the international community cannot afford to ignore.”

For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: