Hundreds rallied in Baghdad this week in solidarity with the thousands of Christians forced to flee from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, after the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) demanded that all Christians in the city convert and pay an infidel’s tax, leave, or be killed. Two-hundred Muslims are believed to have joined Christians at the rally in Baghdad.
Holding up signs that say “I am Iraqi, I am Christian,” the ralliers, many of them Christians who arrived in Baghdad fleeing the violence of IS (formerly ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), stood in front of a Catholic church in support of those who still lived in turbulent areas, and against the eradication of their religion from one of its oldest cradles. According to Al-Arabiya, these Christians were joined by Muslims expressing solidarity with the Christian community, also holding up signs that said “I am Iraqi, I am Christian.”
Christian leaders in Baghdad thanked Muslims supporters for standing up for their right to live in Iraq. “What gives us hope is a group of citizens – I do not want to say Muslims but they were Muslims – from Baghdad carrying slogans saying “I am Iraqi, I am Christian,” said Father Maysar Bahnam of Mar Korkis Catholic Church to Al Arabiya. “They prayed in solidarity with us, saying that we are people from this land.”
About 200 Muslims were believed to be in attendance at the rally on Sunday, some even marking themselves with the Arabic letter “N” for “Nazarene,” or Christian. The letter has been used by ISIS in Mosul to tag homes in which Christians lived, homes later looted and used as ISIS property. The situation has been described as among the worst in the history of Christianity. Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I Sako told Reuters that the persecution in Mosul “has never happened in Christian or Islamic history. Even Genghis Khan or Hulagu didn’t do this.” After early reports of ISIS starving out Christians and the current open purge of the religion in the city, it is currently believed that Mosul is completely devoid of Christians for the first time in the history of the religion.
The New York Times notes that Muslims have also been a presence in Baghdad churches this week, consoling Christians fleeing persecution. “You are the true original people here, and we are sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam,” one Muslim woman told another at a Christian mass on Sunday, also heavily attended by Muslim supporters.
The resistance to ISIS across Iraq by civilians in areas like Baghdad has become increasingly vocal. Even in Mosul, ISIS-painted letter “N”s have been “vandalized” to now read, “We are all Christians,” in opposition to the group.
The images of the rally in Baghdad have been widely distributed on social media, with collections of men, women, and children holding up signs identifying openly as Christians in resistance to the terror organization.