The Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has told Iraqi Christians in the city of Mosul that they have to accept Islam or die, CNN reports.
IS made the announcement on July 18 through mosques, loudspeakers and leaflets telling Christians that they have until noon July 19 to leave the city or else. According to Aleteia, “there is nothing between us and them except the sword!”
The Sunni militant group claims they made the warning because they wanted to meet with Christian leaders to tell them the rules of the caliphate, specifically that Christians who didn’t convert to Islam would have to pay a special tax, known as the jizya, or die. Christian leaders didn’t show up to the meeting.
Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Sirop of Baghdad told Aleita that IS’s announcement was “shocking.”
“The Christians in Mosul for centuries and those families were suddenly torn away from their city, their home, their life,” Sirop said. “We are really worried about the future of Christians in this country.”
Sirop also noted that this is the first time Christians in Mosul have been forced from their homes, and that Christians leaving Mosul were stopped at checkpoints by militias who stole everything from them. He pleaded for help from the international community.
“You have to help these poor people without a home and robbed of all that he had,” the bishop said. “It’s really a great tragedy.”
IS’s ultimatum came amidst reports that IS had withdrawn from parts of Mosul and were replaced by the Sunni militant group Naqshbandi Army, also known as the JRTN. According to UPI, IS left parts of Mosul to fight Iraqi forces in Tikrit.
The last Christian families in Mosul are leaving for cities like Erbil, Dohuk and other areas considered safer.