Iraq (MNN) — Al Qaeda-inspired insurgents have wrestled control of Mosul, Tikri, and Nineveh away from the Iraqi government.
Open Doors USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra says, “This is also a center for Christians. A lot of Christians still live there. It’s located in northern parts of Iraq. What we’ve heard from our workers in the field is that Christians are just moving out.”
According to the United Nations, unity in Iraq is necessary to stop the advance of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL or ISIS) power grab.
This week’s action prompted the Iraqi Parliament to call for a state of emergency. To put it in scale, Mosul’s take-over is the equivalent of losing control of Houston, Texas–the United States’ fourth-largest city; Hamburg, Germany; or Osaka, Japan.
Tikrit’s loss is strategic, as Saddam Hussein’s hometown. Agence France-Presse also reported insurgent control in Nineveh, as well as militant activity in Kirkuk. A mere 250 miles lay between Mosul and Baghdad; and ISIS controls key towns half of the way.
The militant group ISIS was also behind the takeover of Raqqa, a village in Syria, where they forced people to pay the “protection tax” (dhimmi), or suffer the consequences. They also unleashed a wave of crucifixions. The Mosul siege makes them one of the most dangerous, destabilizing radical groups in the region. What do they want? “Really, their aim is to establish a Sunni Muslim Caliphate in the Middle East,” explains Dykstra. The Caliphate would be straddling the border between Iraq and Syria.
Dykstra cited a report last year from an OD field worker, which read, in part, “These Islamic insurgents want to make Iraq a ‘Muslim-only’ country. They do not want any Christians inside Iraq.’ We’re seeing this being played out right now.”
The ISIS attack had hundreds of Christian families fleeing since Monday morning. They join the nearly half million who made for the borders 48 hours ago. “Over 90% of the Christians have left Iraq. Our field workers are saying this is a tremendous blow to Christianity inside Iraq,” Dykstra adds. Many are headed for the Kurdish region. However, “Even in Kurdistan, which was previously called a ‘safe’ part of the country, it’s not so safe anymore because of this terrorist group. Even though they’re fleeing to Kurdistan, that does not automatically assure them that they’ll be safe there.”
A representative for Open Doors in Iraq says that in the monastery of Mar Mattai, some 200 families found shelter. And in a monastery in Alqosh, about 50 families. Several schools in mainly-Christian villages opened the doors for the Christian families. “If the current pace of Christians leaving Iraq continues,” Dykstra observes, “there will be no Christians left in Iraq in several years. Pray that the refugees find a place to stay.”
Iraq is ranked No. 4 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. The militants of the group are feared because they don’t hesitate to kill people from minority groups.
“Open Doors has been working in Iraq for many years, helping with church repairs, supplies, trauma counseling, training, and distributing Bibles,” says Dykstra. For now, they’ll do what they can. Even that is called into question. An Open Doors representative adds: “The situation in and around Mosul is becoming worse, and we are facing another serious migration of Christians.”