Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Sirop of Baghdad has confirmed a troubling report from Mosul that the Islamic State is now presenting Christians in that city with a final ultimatum of conversion, subservience or death.
According to sources known to Aleteia, but kept anonymous due to security concerns, a number of mosques in the city of Mosul, and through loudspeakers, called on Christians Friday to leave the city. They said they were doing so because bishops had refused to attend a meeting this week with members of the Islamic State in which the new rulers would dictate terms to the Christians: pay a special tax or convert to Islam.
Christians have until tomorrow to leave, or face execution.
Bishop Sirop has confirmed the report to Aleteia partner Aid to the Church in Need.
"We are speechless because what happened is really shocking. We are really worried about the future of Christians in this country," the bishop said Friday. "In the last hours, the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have forced the few remaining Christians in Iraq’s second city to leave their homes. Desperate, Christians immediately fled but were stopped at checkpoints by militias who have looted cars and all their belongings and then summoned them to continue on foot. Most of the families are headed to the North, in the city of Dahuk."
The bishop said Christians in Mosul, whose history goes back to the early centuries of Christianity, have never been driven from their homes as if they had no rights—until now.
Since yesterday, he said, the militia has asked Christians to convert to Islam or leave.
"Our worst fears are coming true, and we do not know how to react," he said. He pleaded with the international community to exert pressure on the Iraqi government to find practical solutions.
A request from the United States Department of State for comment has not yet been answered.
A spokesman for Congrssman Frank Wolf (R-VA), who helped establish the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 1998, said his office was "very concerned and very engaged," but would not comment further.
"With a greater internal stability, there will be no place for these groups of fanatics who claim to govern our country," said Bishop Sirop. "And then you have to help these poor people without a home and robbed of all that he had. It’s really a tragedy."
After bishops did not attend the meeting called by leaders of the caliphate this week, the Islamic State issued a communique to let them know that Christians would be given the chance to convert to Islam or pay special taxes. If they refused, "their destiny is the sword," the communique said.
Referring to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the letter said, "The prince of the faithful, Caliph Ibrahim, is allowing them however, to leave on their own, outside the limits of the Caliphate. They have until 12 noon (Saturday), and after that, there is nothing between us and them except of the sword!"
The ultimatum may actually be working for the Islamic State. Fides News Agency reported today that the last Christian families still present in Mosul are leaving and are heading towards Erbil, Dohuk and other areas of Iraqi Kurdistan which are considered safer.
"This is confirmed by sources of the local Chaldean community to Fides Agency," the report said. "The new exodus has accelerated in the past two days, after Sunni insurgents and militants of the Islamic Caliphate began to mark with letters of recognition the homes of Christians and Shiites. As reported by the website www.Ankawa.com, the evacuation of the last Christians is also due to the intensification of the bombing carried out by the military government on many areas of the city, especially at night. In many villages of the Nineveh Plain, the main emergency is currently represented by the suspension of water supply, made even more unbearable due to high temperatures."
It may be the end game Christians have feared for some time, especially since ISIS took over Mosul in early June. Since then, things have gotten progressively worse for Christians. The Associated Press has also reported that the Islamic State has begun seizing the houses of Christian and Shiite families who fled Mosul and giving some of them to Sunni families uprooted from areas like Tikrit and Diyala. "They mark these houses with signs reading Islamic State Properties," AP reported today. "A resident of a north Mosul neighborhood said three masked gunmen knocked on his door Wednesday, asking whether he knew of any Christian or Shiite homes in the area. The resident spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals."