Moscow, August 14, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church has called on the world community to defend Iraq's Christians.
"The Moscow Patriarchate calls upon all the political forces concerned and all the people of good will to exert every effort to defend the religious minorities in Iraq," the Communication Service of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations said in a statement released in Moscow on Thursday.
"The disappearance of the oldest Christian presence will have far reaching, catastrophic consequences for the entire region. We express solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ and hope that the international community will take all the necessary measures to save the Christian community in Iraq," the statement says.
"There were about 1,5 million Christians living in Iraq before 2003. Religious radicalism, banditry, continued terror attacks, killings and discrimination against Christians, which began to spread as far back as ten years ago, have led to a situation in which most Christians have had to leave the country. In June 2014, militants of the extremist movement "Islamic State of Iraq and Levant" (ISIL), known previously for their savage reprisals against Christian civilians in Syria, began their onslaught in northern Iraq. With their capture of the city of Mosul on June 6, 2014, Christians afraid of persecution began leaving their homes en masse. According to AINA new agency, all the 45 Christian churches in Mosul were destroyed, looted or turned into mosques. Eleven churches were burnt to ashes," the statement says.
The Communication Service said, citing information received from church leaders and the local media, that ISIL militants ordered Christians "either to leave Mosul or convert to Islam; those who refused to do this were savagely executed. At present, there are 70 thousand Christian refugees in Erbil, many of them having to spend nights in the open. In Dohuk, there are over 60 thousand refugees. The mass media have reported that in Mosul, militants are executing Christian children on a regular basis, beheading them and then putting their heads on display to intimidate of the population. Women are being grossly abused."
"The cruel aggression against Christians in Iraq has become systemic, turning into a real genocide. Ideologues of the so-called "Islamic State" are carrying out the task of total eradication or expulsion of Christians from the territories that they have come to occupy through massacre, forced deportation and seizure of property. Meanwhile, proponents of this grouping are openly holding demonstrations and propagating the militants' ideology.