Thousands of Christians flee as an extremist, Sunni group threatens death in Mosul, Iraq.
Since early June, the jihadist group, Islamic State (ISIS), has occupied several regions in Iraq and Syria, including Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq.
Pushing their agenda to implement Shariah law and generate an Islamic state, Christians and other religious communities have been severely targeted and persecuted.
ISIS demanded that Christians either pay a heavy religious tax, convert to Islam, or be killed. The option for paying taxes was later revoked. As a result, thousands have been forced to leave, with their homes seized and churches turned into mosques. To mark the homes where Christians resided, the extremists painted the Arabic letter “N,” on their doors, representing Nasrani, or Christian.
Many have condemned this religious cleansing, including Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, although the Iraqi government is struggling to protect its’ citizens. In a released statement, Maliki slams the Islamic State for their criminal and unjust behavior.
“What is being done by the Daesh terrorist gang against our Christian citizens in Ninevah province, and their aggression against the churches and houses of worship in the areas under their control reveals beyond any doubt the extremist criminal and terrorist nature of this group,” the statement read.
Pope Francis has also addressed these religious assaults, asking Catholics to pray for their Christian brethren, and pleaded to the international community to “take initiatives to put an end to the humanitarian drama underway, to take steps to protect those involved and threatened by violence and to ensure the necessary aid for so many displaced people whose fate depends on the solidarity of others,” the Vatican spokesman said Wednesday.
Upon leaving, Christian families were stripped of their belongings and possessions, and are now displaced, looking for food, water, and shelter.
France has offered assistance, granting asylum to Christians and other religious communities that have escaped, but many are unaware of how long they can stay and are questioning if they will ever return their homeland.
On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke on the crisis in Iraq and has authorized airstrikes against Islamic militants. Humanitarian aid was sent to religious groups who are seeking refuge.
For now, the situation in Mosul remains dire.