In a statement dated from last week, the Islamic State ISIS issued an ultimatum to the Christians in the town of Mosul in northern Iraq, urging them to convert to Islam, pay a religious tax or face death.
The statement by the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, warned that the Christians had until Saturday to “leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate.”
“After this date, there is nothing between us and them but the sword,” the statement said.
“We were shocked by the distribution of a statement by the Islamic State calling on Christians to convert to Islam, or to pay unspecified tribute, or to leave their city and their homes taking only their clothes and no luggage, and that their homes would then belong to the Islamic State,” Sako said.
The patriarch, who is one of the most senior Christian clerics in Iraq, and residents contacted by AFP, said Islamic State militants had in recent days been tagging Christian houses with the letter N for “Nassarah”, the term by which the Koran refers to Christians.
The city’s estimated 25,000 Christians who had not already fled years of kidnappings, bombings and shootings were asked to comply with a brutal ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay an unspecified tax, leave the city or die.
Islamic State (IS) militants robbed departing Christians of their belongings leaving them to face destitution in grim camps for the displaced.
The group claims its goal is to return the lands they conquer to a state approximating that of early Islam, in which Jews and Christians who did not convert had to pay a “jizya” tribute to their Muslim rulers.
According to the IS statement, seen by AFP, any homes they leave behind become property of the insurgent group.
Some of Mosul’s Christians might be able to afford to pay the jizya, but they appear unwilling to take their chances living under the thumb of rulers notorious for executing and crucifying their opponents.