Adapted from Anglican Communion News Service
In the wake of the growing crisis in Iraq, the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf and the Anglican vicar of St. George’s Church in Baghdad have asked for prayers and help.
An estimated half-million people, including hundreds of Christian families, are fleeing the area, with many attempting to find refuge in the nearby Kurdish provinces of Northern Iraq. At least one Assyrian church in Mosul has been burned down in the recent violence.
A statement from the diocese said that Christians are feeling particularly vulnerable, “especially in light of the treatment of Christians in the Raqqah province of northern Syria where ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] has also established its authority.”
“Recall that, in February 2014, ISIS commanders in Raqqah forced Christian community leaders to sign a contract agreeing to a set of stringent conditions. These included the payment of a special tax (known as jizya), conduct of Christian rites only behind closed doors so as to be neither visible nor audible to Muslims, and adherence to Islamic commercial, dress code and dietary regulations.”
“Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh plain is the traditional heartland of Iraq’s Christian communities. Many Christians fled to this region when forced to leave Baghdad and other areas in recent years. Christians are alarmed at the ISIS take-over of Mosul, fearful that this will further accelerate the decline of the Christian presence in Iraq.”
Anglican vicar of St George’s Church in Baghdad, Canon Andrew White, also issued an appeal. Canon White, who has lost hundreds of his congregation to the violence of recent years, said Iraq was facing its worst crisis since 2003.
“ISIS, a group that does not even see Al Qaida as extreme enough, has moved into Mosul, which is Nineveh. It has totally taken control, destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. The army and police have fled, so many of the military resources have been captured. Tankers, armed vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS.”
Image: The Rev. Canon Andrew White