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Kristallnacht in Iraq

Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency
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Will world leaders speak out in face of ethnic cleansing of Christians?

As the deadline approached today for Christians in Mosul to convert, agree to live as “dhimmi” or become martyrs, reports indicate that an “ethnic cleansing” of the city has been accomplished by the Islamic State.

"Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Irbil," in the neighboring autonomous region of Kurdistan," Patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I Sako told the Agence France-Presse news agency. "For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.”

In an interview with Vatican Radio today, the patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church, Ignace Joseph III Younan, confirmed that the seat of the Syrian Catholic Archeparchy of Mosul was completely burned down by the Islamic State overnight.

The patriarch, who met this morning in the Vatican with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States, said that everything was lost, including a library and manuscripts.

Archbishop Younan said there were only a dozen families left in Mosul yesterday, but all of them have fled. As they left the city, guards “stole everything, they insulted them, left them so, in the desert.”

He said that Christians from Mosul have found refuge in Kurdistan, “where they were welcomed, but the Prime Minister of Kurdistan said that Kurdistan can no longer receive refugees because other minorities, such as Yazidi, are also pouring in.”

“We Christians are not imported, we are here for thousands of years and, therefore, we have the right to be treated like human beings and citizens of these countries,” Archbishop Younan said.

Yesterday, Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Sirop of Baghdad confirmed that the Islamic State—the Sunni fundamentalists who have taken over large areas of northern Iraq in their attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate—has given Christians in Mosul a harsh choice: convert to Islam, agree to live under restrictive dhimmitude, a special arrangement in which non-Muslims pay a special tax, or be killed.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States “condemns in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of ethnic and religious minorities by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)."

"We are outraged by ISIL’s recent announcement that Christians in Mosul must either convert, pay a tax, leave, or face execution in the coming days," Psaki said in a statement. "We have also seen photos of reportedly Christian houses in Mosul marked with pejorative terms for Christians, as well as reports that Shia and Shabak houses have been similarly marked. ISIL also continues to target Sunni clerics and tribal sheikhs who disagree with its dark vision for Iraq.”

The statement said the threat the Islamic State represents needs to be met by Iraqis. “This growing threat exemplifies the need for Iraqis from all communities to work together to confront this common enemy and to take all possible steps to isolate these militant groups from the broader population,” it said.”We encourage government officials in Baghdad and Erbil to take every possible effort to assist Iraq’s vulnerable populations and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions in a manner consistent with the rule of law.”

As the Christian community in Mosul learned of the Islamic State’s new decree, Patriarch Sako issued an appeal for reconciliation, saying, “With all due respect to belief and dogmas, there has been a fraternal life between Christians and Muslims. How much the Christians have shared here in our East specifically from the beginnings of Islam. They shared every sweet and bitter circumstance of life; Christian and Muslim blood has been mixed as it was shed in the defense of their rights and lands. Together they built a civilization, cities, and a heritage. It is truly unjust now to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing.”

The patriarch’s July 17 statement said that the Quran urges believers to “respect the innocent and has never called them to seize the belongings, the possessions, the properties of others by force.” The Muslim holy book, he noted, commands “refuge for the widow, the orphaned, the poor, and the weaponless.”

Patriarch Sako and others have noted that the Islamic State has been marking the homes of Christians in Mosul with the Arabic letter N for "Nassarah," a term used for Christians in the Quran.

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