The first stories about ISIS desecrating churches and turning them into torture chambers, where Christians were slaughtered or forced to convert to Islam, began surfacing at the end of 2014. A new report from Christian Freedom International found the persecution of Christians was even more brutal and widespread than believed, with centuries-old Christian communities across the Islamic State war zone completely wiped out.
“Islamic State Militants in Iraq are using Christian churches as torture chambers where they force Christians to either convert to Islam or die,” said CFI president Jim Jacobson, as quoted by the UK Express. “Islamic State militants are also stripping the former places of Christian worship of ancient relics which in turn are smuggled to Western collectors to help fund their terrorist activities.”
Among the incidents referenced in the report was the videotaped destruction of a 1,600-year-old monastery in Syria by ISIS thugs, who also abducted 230 Christians in the area and made a point of desecrating the bones of Saint Elian, to whom the monastery was dedicate.
As the UK Express observes, there have been several other stories about hundreds of Assyrian Christians being kidnapped by ISIS over the past year, but only a handful of the captives have ever been released. The fate of the rest remains unknown.
Another atrocity described by International Business Times was the abduction for ransom of a Christian priest in Syria. His family was able to raise the $120,000 demanded by ISIS, but they slaughtered the priest anyway, cut him into pieces, and sent the pieces to his family in a box.
Several other Christian priests kidnapped by ISIS and other Islamist groups have been released after being tortured. Others were murdered, or never seen again. “We are Christian, so we are used to having our luggage always prepared. We always have to run away, escape from place to place,” Catholic Father Douglas Bazi, himself the survivor of a brutal abduction in 2006, told a BBC documentary crew.
Wiping Christianity out of the Middle East is a declared goal of ISIS, and they have made impressive progress toward their goal. It is said that at least 40 percent of the Christian population of Syria has been killed or driven out. The Christian populations of captive cities like Mosul have been effectively wiped out. Other ancient Christian peoples would be dead or enslaved, if not for the intervention of the Kurds.
The magnitude of this crisis is staggering, which makes it very strange to hear Pope Francis spend his time talking about global warming. The Christians of the Middle East are facing an existential crisis. Some of the communities wiped out by Islamists are unlikely to return, ever. Why aren’t the voices of “tolerance” around the world raised in thunderous denunciation of this savage persecution?