THE most senior Christian cleric in Iraq, the Chaldean Patriarch
of Babylon and Archbishop of Baghdad, the Most Revd Louis Raphael
Sako, has appealed for the release of two nuns and three orphans,
who went missing in militant-controlled territory last week.
The nuns, Sister Utoor Joseph and Sister Miskintah, disappeared,
as well as three orphans from the orphanage they ran in Mosul,
which has been taken over by the group the Islamic State. There are
fears that the nuns may have been kidnapped by jihadists.
Archbishop Sako said: "We are appealing for scholars in Mosul,
and tribal sheikhs, to help us release two nuns and three orphans.
We [Christians and Muslims] lived together side by side for 14
centuries. We still want to communicate and live together."
Ever since the Islamic State - formerly known as the Islamic
State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS - captured large parts of
northern Iraq last month, thousands of Christians have fled the
There are reports that Christians in areas controlled by the
Islamic State are being forced to pay jizya - a historic
poll-tax paid by non-Muslims to Islamic rulers (News,
7 March). The news agency Agence France-Presse has reported
that crosses at both the Chaldean and Syrian Orthodox cathedrals in
Mosul have been torn down, and replaced with the black flag of the
Islamic State, and the buildings have been occupied.
Militants have also destroyed places of worship across territory
that they control. Shia Muslim mosques and shrines have been
bulldozed or blown up. The strict brand of Sunni Islam that the
Islamic State adheres to does not approve of venerating tombs.
Although the march of Islamic State fighters towards the
capital, Baghdad, has been halted by Shia militias and Kurdish
soldiers, the situation remains serious. The Vicar of St George's,
Baghdad, Canon Andrew White, told supporters in an email that there
was no water, electricity, or internet services.
"May we plead for your prayers?" he wrote. "We are in the most
desperate situation we have been in since the war in 2003. We have
no government, very little food, and, for the first time, huge
opposition against Christianity."