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ICC Note: With the final push to rid Mosul and its surrounding areas of Christians in Iraq, ISIS has expelled several monks from a local Monastery. The monastery, Mar Behnam, dates back to the 4th century and is a major Christian landmark. The monks were told to take nothing but the clothes on their backs. Mar Behnam stands as a testament to how deeply engrained Christianity is in the culture of Iraq. This attempt by ISIS to rid the region of its history shows the desperation and extreme measures of violence ISIS is willing to go to in order to establish a caliph.

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

07/22/14 Iraq (BBC News) – Islamist militants in Iraq are reported to have seized an ancient monastery near Mosul and expelled the monks.

Local residents said monks at the Mar Behnam monastery were allowed to take only the clothes they were wearing.

The monastery, which dates from the 4th Century, is a major Christian landmark and a place of pilgrimage.

Christians have fled Mosul after the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) told them to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death.

Isis has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq and said last month it was creating an Islamic caliphate.

Mosul itself is now said to be empty of Christians.

The Mar Behnam monastery is run by the Syriac Catholic Church and is near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, to the south-east of Mosul.

Analysis by BBC Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher

Ancient landmarks like Mar Behnam show how deeply embedded Christianity is in the culture and history of Iraq. Just as in many other Arab countries, churches and monasteries are a timeless part of the landscape.

For years, though, Christians have been warning that their hold in parts of the Middle East is weakening. In Iraq, the lightning seizure of large parts of the country by Isis has been a frightening new threat. Thousands have fled Mosul, leaving it for the first time without a Christian community, after Isis gave them an ultimatum to submit to its authority or face death.

But if Iraqi Christians face penalties and discrimination under Isis, other religious sects are faring even worse. Yazidis and Shia Muslims risk being taken out and killed on the spot for their beliefs.

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