Convert or Die

By: Bridget Creel, Special Report Summer Associate

In response to a deadly ultimatum delivered by ISIS, thousands of Iraqi Christians have left their homes to seek safety from religious persecution.

Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, was captured by ISIS in June and the extremists have threatened and even harmed all inhabitants who do not practice Islam. 

This weekend, the Islamic State terror group (ISIS/IS) delivered a statement to Christians that gave them the choice between converting to Islam, paying a tax or fleeing their ancient homeland. The offer was time sensitive and if they failed to choose by Saturday, July 19, ISIS said there would be “nothing for them but the sword.”

Christians who were not willing to compromise with the militants fled Mosul. Before they were able to officially depart, ISIS demanded that they be stripped of all valuable belongings, leaving most Christians with nothing but remnants of their clothing.

Christians are not the only ones affected by the acts of ISIS. ISIS is responsible for the destruction of mosques and shrines, causing other religious minorities to flee Mosul as well.

Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, called for governmental support for the homeless Iraqis who were forced to leave Mosul. He said that this specific event demonstrates "the extreme criminality and terrorist nature of this group.”

Although many have moved away, some Iraqi Christians are facing the alternatives. Several Christians have converted to Islam and those that choose to stay, refuse to abandon their religious beliefs.

Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Mouche told the Washington Post, “If we all leave, it sends the message that there is nowhere safe for Christians to live in Iraq — and this worries me. I’m not a vagabond. This is my home, and I will die here if necessary.”