“We are speechless, because what has happened is utterly shocking. Christians have been in Mosul for centuries, and now these families have been summarily evicted from their city, from their homes, from their lives. We are profoundly concerned for the future of the Christians in this country.” Such was the horrified reaction of Auxiliary Bishop Saad Syroub in the face of recent events in Mosul. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) spoke to the Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, by telephone on Friday 18th July.
The jihadists of ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) have forced the few remaining Christians in this, the second city of Iraq, to leave their homes. Desperate, the Christians immediately fled, but were then stopped at the military checkpoints by ISIS militias, who robbed them of their cars and all their possessions, telling them they must continue on foot. Most of the families headed north, towards the town of Dahuk.
“It has never happened before that the Christians were chased from their own homes as if they had no rights at all”, the bishop added. “Unfortunately, however, this is the reality today in Iraq, above all in Mosul.” Bishop Syroub explained to ACN that during the last few days the jihadists had begun writing on all the Christian homes the words “Property of ISIS”. Next to it they wrote, circled in red, the letter N – the initial letter of the Arabic word “nasara”, meaning “Christians”.
Then, from the 17th of July, the militants began to order the Christians either to convert to Islam or else to leave Mosul. “Our worst fears have been confirmed”, Bishop Syroub added, “and we do not know how to respond. It has already been far too long that there is no security in Iraq and that people are terrorised, especially our own Christian faithful.” The tiny Christian minority has no one to turn to, either at the national or the international level.
At this tragic time Bishop Syroub is calling on the international community to put pressure on the Iraqi government to come up with a coherent solution. “If there were greater internal stability there would no longer be a place for these groups of fanatics who claim to govern our country. And there is also a need to help these poor people who are now homeless and stripped of all their belongings. It is truly a tragedy.”
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.