Pray for the Iraqis

This last week the Christian population was driven out of Mosul, or rather, was given the options to convert to Islam (and not just any variety of Islam, but the extremist Sunni variety practiced by Mosul’s new ISIS masters), or to pay an exorbitant extra tax, or to leave with only the clothes on their backs, or to die.  All or almost all have chosen to leave.  As Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako put it, “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.”

Nor were Christians alone suffering in this way; Shiite men have previously been abducted and executed at gunpoint by ISIS, and are now also being driven out of Mosul, as are the Yezidis (this article explains some of the ethnic and religious diversity in Mosul, and how ISIS is attacking all non-Sunnis).  Shiite mosques are being destroyed as well as Christian churches, as was the Sunni shrine of Nabi Yunus (the prophet Jonah) in the ruins of Nineveh east of the Tigris, because ISIS disapproves of venerating saints or showing reverence to tombs.  What the news media is missing is that the purported “tomb of Jonah” is quite possibly the tomb of a Christian patriarch in the early Islamic period, Hnanisho I (d. 698), which ISIS has now destroyed.

The Sunni majority of the city of Mosul has the easiest time of it, because they can mostly just stop going to the shrine of Nabi Yunus, and the women among them can buy new wardrobes more consistent with the ISIS clothing rules (or perhaps just start wearing bedsheets).  But ISIS can also pressure them in unacceptable ways, demanding that they take oaths of allegiance to ISIS and surrender their young men to being conscripted into the terrorist brainwashing machine.  ISIS is destroying the entire fabric of Iraqi society.

So all Iraqis are suffering under these murderous thugs who call themselves the “Islamic State” and appoint their own “Caliph,” and all Iraqis need our prayer.  I partly emphasize the role of the Christians because most English news consumers forget that in recent times there were thousands of Christians in Mosul.  They were there before the Islamic conquests, and continued to outnumber Muslims in the city for centuries afterward; we don’t know when Muslims began to outnumber Christians in Mosul itself, or in the surrounding countryside.  I have heard people say, unknowingly echoing the words of a 13th century English bishop in response to a Shiite appeal for military assistance against the conquering forces of Genghis Khan’s son, “Let us leave these dogs to devour one another.”  But most of the people who are suffering, both Christian and Muslim, are neither combatants nor supporting combatants.  Mosul was a peaceful and beautiful city, as was Baghdad as recently as the 1960s, where people identifying with a particular religious group would not be taken as sufficient cause for execution.  These ISIS fighters are not part of Mosul society; they are holding it captive at gunpoint, and committing crimes against all religious and ethnic groups.

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