Christians Refuse to Return to Mosul Fearing ISIS’s Ideological Impact
6/10/2016 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has recognized that two years ago, on June 10, 2014, Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city fell to the Islamic State in Iraq in Syria (ISIS). Since then, more than 100,000 Christians have been driven from their homes by the Islamic militants who still hold sway in Mosul. In 2014, more than 500,000 fled Mosul, and since then, the number of displaced Iraqis has grown to over three million.
While June 10 represents the beginning of Mosul’s occupation, Christians in the Iraqi city have long suffered persecution there.
“Mosul was the best area for ISIS to start because Mosul’s people already had a [shared ideology],” a CMA pastor in Baghdad explained to ICC. “In addition to that, ISIS has [now] trained the next generation of fighters [to commit] violence against Christians. Returning to Mosul is not reasonable even if ISIS [is] defeated.”
Christians have occupied Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh plains for nearly 2,000 years. In Mosul alone, the population was believed to include 35,000 Christians, down from 60,000 in 2003. All 45 of Mosul’s churches and Christian institutions have been overrun by ISIS or destroyed since 2014.
On April 25 of this year, ISIS militants destroyed Mosul’s iconic Clock Church. “It’s special in Iraq, rich with historical photos and icons,” the Chaldean Patriarch for Iraq, Luis Sako, told Iraq Today in April. “Destroying that church is destroying the Christian’s history and heritage, it’s really painful to [a] Christian to see this and that’s why they are leaving the country.”
When ISIS entered the city, Christians who had remained were captured, forced to convert, pay a protection fee, or face death.
Most Christians from Mosul will never return to their homes due to the radicalization of the besieged population. Seeing that persecution was always an issue in the city, many Christians now believe that the population has submitted to the radical beliefs of its ruling Caliph and militants.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, said, “It has been two years since the fall of Mosul and the situation in Iraq is still dire. Christians and other religious minorities continue to suffer explicit targeting by ISIS fighters and the group’s followers. While the world debates over a strategy for confronting the terrorist group, hundreds of thousands remain in desperate conditions because of their religious identity. ICC applauds the US government for recognizing ISIS’ actions against religious minorities as genocide, but more action is still required. No one should fear being killed because of their religious identity. If bold action is not taken soon, ISIS could drive Christianity out of one of its ancient homelands.”