Mosul, the capital of the Nineveh province in Iraq, is currently under assault. In a letter posted on the website First Things, Dominican Friar Fr. Najeeb Michaeel, O.P. has written from Mosul:
Bad news. I write you in a situation of violence in Mosul that is very critical and even apocalyptic. Most of the inhabitants of the city have already abandoned their houses and fled into the villages and are sleeping in the open without anything to eat or drink. Many thousands of armed men from the Islamic Groups of Da’ash have attacked the city of Mosul for the last two days. They have assassinated adults and children. The bodies have been left in the streets and in the houses by the hundreds, without pity. The regular forces and the army have also fled the city, along with the governor. In the mosques, they cry “Allah Akbar, long live the Islamic State.” Qaraqosh is overflowing with refugees of all kinds, without food or lodging. The check points and the Kurdish forces are blocking innumerable refugees from entering Kurdistan. What we are living and what we have seen over the last two days is horrible and catastrophic. The priory of Mar Behnam and other churches fell into the hands of the rebels this morning… and now they have come here and entered Qaraqosh five minutes ago, and we are now surrounded and threatened with death… ray for us. I’m sorry that I can’t continue… They are not far from our convent…
According to CNN, militants believed to be from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took control of the airport, government offices, and TV stations. Iraqi police and soldiers fled from the onslaught. The militants freed around 1,000 militants from the Mosul prison.
The Iraqi government has asked the United States for help, under the terms of the Strategic Agreement. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has asked the parliament to declare a state of emergency and called on all able Iraqi men to come out and help defend the country.
While the majority of Mosul’s 1.8 million inhabitants are Sunni Muslim, the city has historic importance for the world’s Christians. Mosul encompasses the ancient city of Nineveh, which is first mentioned in Genesis 10:11: “Ashur left that land, and built Nineveh”. It was to the city of Nineveh that God sent Jonas to preach repentance, and in the end the city was saved from destruction.
Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq had about 1.4 million Christians, but in the lawlessness and civil unrest of recent years, that population has come under constant attack and is believed to be down around 400,000. Some of Iraq’s Christians have argued that creating an autonomous Christian province around the Nineveh plain would be one possible way to ensure their future, but it has remained a contentious issue.
Katie Gorka is the president of the Council on Global Security.