The Islamic State’s goal of eradicating Christianity from its ancient home in northern Iraq is nearly complete, report Christian officials remaining in the area. According to one Vicar, last week marked the first time in millennia that Christians did not receive Holy Communion in Nineveh, northern Iraq.
As the Telegraph reports, Canon Andrew White, the only Anglican Vicar remaining in Iraq, reported that Communion did not take place in Nineveh this year. “All [churches] are closed, all their people have run away.” Canon White noted that the few Iraqis remaining in the region are there due to poverty or immobility, and that those remaining fear for their lives constantly.
He added that many in the area expressed concern over the possibility of airstrikes on the region, citing the possibility of civilian casualties. “From the Iraqi point of view, the only way we can gain some kind of real safety and real removal of the Islamic State, as they call themselves, would be by having troops on the ground,” he noted. President Obama has categorically refused to entertain the option of ground troops in Iraq during this operation.
Canon White has been warning of the potential for a complete ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Christians from the region for months. In July, he told BBC Radio 4 that “the end could very well be near” for Christianity in Iraq, noting the squalor in which the Islamic State had left thousands of Christians: “We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off. The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go.”
The Islamic State’s advances in Nineveh and other areas of northern Iraq have severely hurt the Christian populations there, forcing an estimated 200,000 people to flee their homeland and remain permanently displaced, with few belongings and no homes. The situation in northern Iraq became especially dire in July, when Islamic State jihadists conquered Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq.
In Mosul, the terrorist group demanded that all Christians convert and pay an infidel’s tax (jizya), leave town, or accept martyrdom. Those who left were deprived of all their money and belongings, and it is believed that, currently, no Christians remain in the city. Christian witnesses who escaped the Islamic State in Mosul also testified that their Sunni Muslim neighbors turned on them and participated in removing them from the city, abandoning them to the terrorist group.
In other areas of northern Iraq, only elderly Christians who cannot travel freely remain. Canon White noted in his interview with The Telegraph that the elderly and the poor will suffer most among the Christian community, precisely due to their inability to escape.