Tuesday, July 22, 2014

IRAQ – Last Christians leave Mosul

All Christians in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul have now reportedly fled, after rebels threatened they should convert to Islam – or be killed.

Release partner Middle East Concern reports that Christian leaders in Mosul were summoned by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) rebels last Thursday to notify them of strict Islamic rules to be applied to non-Muslims. When Christians failed to attend, IS announced that they should leave by midday on Saturday or face execution. It's thought only 50 Christian families remained in Mosul until this weekend.

Earlier IS had marked homes belonging to religious minorities as 'property of the Islamic state'; Christian homes were marked 'N' for 'Nazarite'. Militants have also now seized the ancient Mar Behnam monastery, a Christian landmark in nearby Qaraqosh.

A fact-finding team from Release International has just returned from Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, which is proving a safe haven for Christians and other minorities fleeing for their lives.

Most displaced Christians Release interviewed despaired of ever returning to their country, and many wanted to leave the Middle East. A number of church leaders could see no future for Christians in Iraq. The Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar M. Warda, told Release: 'Christians have lost their trust in the land and in the future.'

Even in Kurdistan, Christians have faced restrictions and believers with a Muslim background are still at risk.

(Sources: BBC, Release contacts)

• Pray for Christians still in Iraq and those who have been forced to flee their homeland. Pray that they will hold on to God's word that 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble' (Psalm 46:1).
• Pray for an end to the bloodshed in Iraq. Pray that the aims of extremists will be thwarted – and peace restored.

Release International, PO Box 54, Orpington, BR5 9RT, UK

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