By Christine Darg

The violent tyranny of jihadist Islam has forced our besieged  Christian brothers and sisters to flee their homes in Iraq with only the shirts on their backs.

Iraqi Christians fled Mosul en masse after Islamist militants threatened to kill them unless they converted to Islam or paid a ‘protection tax’ according to The Telegraph.

“For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” Patriarch Louis Sako lamented as hundreds of families fled ahead of a noon deadline set by Islamic State for them to submit or leave.

This warning was reportedly read out in Mosul’s mosques on Friday afternoon, and broadcast throughout the city on loudspeakers: “We offer [the Christians] three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment… if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.”

The New York Times reported that the Christian community had until noon yesterday to get out of town:  “Men, women and children piled into neighbors’ cars, while some begged for rides to the city limits and hoped to get taxis to the nearest Christian villages. They took nothing more than the clothes on their backs, according to several who were reached late Friday.”

The order from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) came after Christians decided not to attend a sinister meeting that ISIS had arranged to discuss their status, according to the New York Times report.

“We were so afraid to go,” said Duraid Hikmat, an expert on minorities who has researched extensively in Mosul. Hikmat fled two weeks ago to a largely Christian town barely an hour away, but his extended family left on Friday.

Mosul’s Christians in the ancient Biblical province of Nineveh are one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. But since 2003, when Saddam Hussein was ousted, their numbers have dwindled from over 30,000 to just a few thousand. And since ISIS swept into the city in early June, the remaining Christians have no choice but the flee the violence.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, now known among ISIS as Caliph Ibrahim, had ordered Christians who did not want to stay and live under their terms to “leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate.”

Shamefully, the media has largely ignored the horrifying stories emerging from Mosul. On June 23, the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported that ISIS terrorists entered the home of a Christian family in Mosul and demanded that they pay the jizya (a tax on non-Muslims). According to AINA, “When the Assyrian family said they did not have the money, three ISIS members raped the mother and daughter in front of the husband and father. The husband and father was so traumatized that he committed suicide.”

My friend Canon Andrew White, the Anglican vicar of Baghdad, wrote on his Facebook page that yesterday was “THE MOST AWFUL DAY EVER FOR CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ. They are fleeing to save their lives and ISIS has vowed to kill them.”

Continue to pray for the violent perpetrators to be overthrown and for the Lord’s vision of the region to come to pass:

Isaiah 19:25

Pray also for our Christians brothers and sisters the same Psalm that we are praying for our elder brothers, the Jews who are being besieged by jihadists:

Psalm 140 A psalm of David.

Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
 protect me from the violent, [Note; the word violent here in Hebrew is Hamas in the plural]

who devise evil plans in their hearts
 and stir up war every day.

Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
 protect me from the violent,
 who devise ways to trip my feet.

Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
 you shield my head in the day of battle.

Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord;
 do not let their plans succeed.

11 May slanderers not be established in the land;
 may disaster hunt down the violent.

12 I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor
 and upholds the cause of the needy.

13 Surely the righteous will praise your name,
 and the upright will live in your presence.

Does this crisis and tragedy affect us? Yes, the Assyrian Christians are part of our Body of Messiah. And don’t forget, dear praying friends, this meditative saying: