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ICC Note: Last month was the first time in nearly 1600 years that Sunday Mass was not celebrated in or around Mosul, Iraq. Due to the increasing violence Christians face from ISIL, many have fled their homes for safer communities outside of Mosul. Beautiful churches now stand looted in the wake of this violence. Many believe they will not ever be able to return to their homes and communities for fears of what awaits them. Many believe that this is the worst time period of persecution for Christians in the recent history of the church. But, despite everything, the church does not despair.

ICC has launched a campaign to provide aid to the Iraqi church to assist those in need who have fled from the attacks. Go here to find out more and donate: Iraqi Crisis Response

07/09/14 Iraq (Juneau Empire News) – This past June 15 was the first time in at least 1,600 years the Sunday Mass was not celebrated anywhere in Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. Mosul’s many churches were closed by Sunni Muslim rebels belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which overran the city days before. A great majority of the Christian population of Mosul fled in terror when ISIS militants took control of the city.

In the atmosphere of terror, which began with the fall of Mosul to ISIS on June 11, ISIS fighters have publicly executed over 1,000 captured Iraqi soldiers and police officers. ISIS forces have also reportedly looted, desecrated and burned the Christian churches in the city. In accord with their fundamentalist reading of Islamic law, ISIS has imposed the jizya (a head tax signifying the subordination of non-Muslims) on the remaining Christian population and are requiring that Christian women wear the hijab, or veil, when in public.

Mar Louis Raphael Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad, characterized the current situation as “perhaps the darkest and most difficult period in (the Church’s) recent history.” A few days ago, after publicly appealing for the release of two Chaldean Catholic nuns and three orphaned children abducted by armed men in broad daylight in Mosul on June 30, Archbishop Sako reflected that Iraqi Christians are now living a time reminiscent of the mystery when Jesus slept in the boat while the storm raged and his disciples terrified (Mk 4:35-41). “Despite everything,” he noted, “we do not despair. We are invited and pressed to awaken Christ, to take advantage of our faith and continue in a calm sea.”

The majority of Iraqi Christians are Catholics belonging to the Eastern Syrian or Chaldean Church. Others belong to either the Syrian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox or the ancient Church of the East. As throughout the entire Middle East, there are Armenian Orthodox Christians in Iraq as well as small Protestant communities.

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