Published: 00:00 GMT Daylight Time - Monday 13 October 2008
Iraqi Christians flee Mosul as Islamic extremists launch campaign against them: "We left everything behind us. We took only our souls."
Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled the city of Mosul in northern Iraq over the past week after Sunni Muslim extremists launched a deadly campaign to remove the Christian community from the city. “We left everything behind us. We took only our souls,” said Ni’ma Noail (50), a civil servant who had to abandon his home in Mosul and is now living in a church.
At least seven Christians were murdered between 4 and 8 October, killed execution-style by gunmen. Other estimates suggest the number of Christians killed is as high as 25 or even 40. Christian houses have been blown up, and at least 744 Christian families (approximately 3,750 people) have left their homes to find refuge with relatives or in churches and Christian centres in seven towns and villages to the north and east of Mosul. Some are sleeping in their cars. They are in desperate need of food, clothes, bedding, items for personal hygiene and other basic necessities.
Leaflets have been distributed in Mosul, threatening Christians with death unless they convert to Islam or pay the Islamic jizya tax that marks them as second-class citizens. The leaflets, which are an effective tactic used before in Baghdad and elsewhere, have been condemned by the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq. One source reports that last Thursday, 9 October, extremists drove around the Mosul neighbourhood of Sukkar, shouting through a loudspeaker that Christians would be attacked unless they left the city.
Northern Iraq is the historic centre of Christianity in Iraq. Many Christians from Baghdad and Basra had fled to the north for safety in recent years. The estimated Christian population of Mosul is now 50,000.
It is believed that the extremists behind the campaign are linked to al-Qaeda. The attacks follow on the heels of another blow to the Christian community when Parliament agreed on 24 September to remove Article 50 from the Provincial Election Law. The Article had guaranteed a specific number of seats for minorities, including Christians, on the Regional Councils (see previous article).
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid, comments:
“The situation in Iraq is extremely grave. Sunni Muslim extremists are moving north, now that they have successfully managed to intimidate and drive out most of the Christians from the cities of Basra in the south and Baghdad in the centre of Iraq. I appeal to the Iraqi government and the US army to intervene urgently to prevent the elimination of the indigenous Christian community of Iraq. I also appeal to Christians around the world to help meet the practical needs of their Iraqi brothers and sisters at this time through the ministry of Barnabas Aid.”
Please help our brothers and sisters in Iraq:
Barnabas Aid is helping to provide practical aid such as food and blankets to Iraqi Christian families who had to flee their homes for fear of their lives in this recent Islamist campaign to drive out the Christian community from Iraq.
If you can help us to support our Iraqi brothers and sisters at this difficult time please click this [Link] to donate online using our secure server. (Please quote project reference 20-227.)
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. (Please quote project reference 20-227.)
If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this [link] for addresses of our regional offices. (Please quote project reference 20-227.)
Pray for God`s protection over the Christian community in Iraq, and particularly in Mosul. Pray that the Lord will comfort them, and give them the grace to forgive their persecutors. Pray also that help will reach those in need quickly.
Pray that the citizens of Mosul will stand up together against the Islamist groups responsible for the atrocities. Pray that Iraqi and US forces will intervene quickly and decisively, putting an end to the Islamist campaign to drive out the Christian community from Mosul or indeed from the whole of Iraq. Pray that the international community and media will start taking note of the very real danger Iraqi Christians are facing in their homeland.