By Mark Ellis
The radical Sunni terror group that overthrew Mosul and now threatens Baghdad and the entire region is already targeting Christians for persecution.
The group known as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized Mosul, a city of two million people, a week ago. After American-trained Iraqi soldiers turned and ran, ISIS captured 72 tanks, 700 Humvees, a cache of Stinger missiles, and looted $480 million from local banks.
The following report was received by Christian Aid Mission from a ministry partner working in Mosul that has planted churches and led many Muslims to Christ: “Please pray for us. We are scared. Last night they came in our church building and started breaking everything they saw,” the email to Christian Aid stated.
The ISIS invaders were bent on destruction. “They took our pulpit down and removed the cross. Then they threw gasoline on it and burned everything.” Christians who hid in the basement were forced out by fire. “We had to go out because of the smoke. As we started running out they saw us and started shooting at us. Some did not make it, but those who did ran in all directions.”
The attack resulted in several believers martyred for the faith. “Those who were captured were killed on the spot,” the report stated. “Most of those who attended the meeting are Muslim background believers. Please pray for us. We don´t have a place to go to and we don´t know what to do.”
The ministry reported that ISIS militants passed out leaflets stating that sharia law was now in effect. The leaflets mandated that all citizens pray five times a day, it stated that the hands of thieves will be amputated, and women should not walk the streets except in an emergency. If women go out in the streets, they must be fully covered.
ISIS militants want to create an Islamic caliphate that encompasses territory in Iraq and Syria, and from there launch a global holy war. The ISIS fighters are considered more brutal and bloody than al Queda. “They believe killing gets them into heaven quicker,” one observer noted.
Recent events point to the possibility that Iraq will eventually be carved into Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish-controlled territories. In the midst of this turmoil, some Christians are fleeing to Kurdistan, where there is more religious freedom.
Before 2003, Mosul had a significant Christian population of some 130,000 people. Since then the number has dwindled to a reported 10,000 due to frequent attacks on Christian homes, businesses, and churches. The city may soon be emptied of nearly all Christians now that ISIS militants have taken full control, according to Christian Aid Mission.
Another ministry partner of Christian Aid also reported on the desperate conditions in Mosul. Not long after ISIS arrived, “the Islamic militias started burning churches and killing Christians and Shiites,” his email stated.
“I have already talked with the church members in Mosul. They shut down the church, and all Christians left their homes and are fleeing to Erbil, along with thousands of Mosul residents,” he reported. “The trip from Mosul to Erbil is like 45 minutes, but it took them 12 hours. Some of them are walking and some others were stuck in the long traffic.”
The ministry leader saw a silver lining in the chaos. “In a crisis like this, we experience a revival time and an awakening everywhere among the Muslims,” he said. “People will get closer to God and be more humble and heartbroken. They will listen to what we say about Jesus and accept our message easier. We need your prayers.”