The Christians of Mosul

It is sometimes forgotten that there were Christians in what we now call Iraq long before there were Muslims. By noon today, however, it is expected that there will be none left in the city of Mosul, where Isis has faced them with a deadly ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay a tax or die. See this BBC news report for background.

This item of news didn’t make the front page of today’s BBC web-site (it is buried deep inside), yet it represents a sickening attempt to violate the consciences of thousands of people and the very real possibility of mass murder. It highlights the difficulty we in the West have in dealing with the religious dimension of conflicts in the Middle East. Part of the problem is that many of us no longer take religion seriously enough to consider how it motivates people and are woefully ignorant both of its teachings and its history. Most of us can’t get inside the mentality of Isis and its particular understanding of Islam so tend to dismiss the kind of ultimatum posed to the Christians of Mosul as mere posturing. We believe in freedom of religion, we say, by which we mean the freedom to worship according to our own beliefs. There are a few limitations on such religious freedom. Human sacrifice, for example, is not permissible, but by and large, we follow the principle of ‘live and let live’. If you want to follow some cranky religion, you do so; just don’t expect me to follow suit. That is not how a member of Isis would see things. It is not how things are in Saudi Arabia. So what do we in the West do?

We know perfectly well that at an international level what ‘we’ do is determined by our respective governments and the political and economic interests of the moment. That is not always as cynical a proposition as it may sound (think energy supplies and European winters). What we do at a personal level, however, is just as important. We have to pray, and we have to protest. We simply cannot stand by mute and uncomplaining when our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq are being chased from their homes and threatened with death. Or can we?

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13 thoughts on “The Christians of Mosul”

  1. Canon Andrew White who is the vicar of St Georges Church Baghdad has been talking about this for some time. he was so sad when prayers could no longer be sad in Mosul.
    His organaisation FRRME is trying to get much relief aid into the area.
    Please pray for the safety of all Christians in Baghdad

  2. We were quite inspired on arriving in Oxford to get a taxi home to be driven by a devout young Muslim who is devoted to this country and vehemently insisted that extremists do not represent his faith but are ignorant and need to be properly informed about the Islamic faith. it was a hot day and he said how difficult it was to fast for Ramadan.
    We pray for the modern day Christian martyrs of the Near and Middle East.

  3. This is utterly sickening and so sad. I pray for these Christians who are so oppressed for their faith that God will give them strength And protect them in their hour of need. I strongly protest that they have been put in this position. It is a fundamental right to follows one’s faith without fear of reprisals. I personally know many Muslims who would be utterly sickened by this.

  4. An excellent blog Sr Catherine. I think that we we do too much in the name of “tolerance”;a word that I cannot abide ,as it generally means (for me)”putting up with something I do not like.I can accept things quite readily;you are a Benedictine sister and I am an Anglican.I respect your beliefs and views,and we have much common ground,and that it probably what acceptance means.Our society has today become tolerant of things which are quite unacceptable,and we do it for a quiet life,or we are afraid of being branded as maybe a racist,or of being homophobic(being a Latin scholar you will appreciate that no one really has a “fear” of homosexuals)or Islamaphobic,and we have always wanted to appease the Saudis,whether it be for their money or their oil;so we do not stand up to be counted whether it be in the office,the church,or in government.I am praying for my brothers and sisters in Christ in Mosul,and I am waiting for the international outcry…….will it be forthcoming?

    • As a Benedictine nun rather than sister (the difference matters in certain contexts), I hope my blog IS genuinely tolerant although I am definitely not the kind of person who won’t say boo to a goose. It is precisely because Isis is promoting a narrow and intolerant version of Islam that I think it is dangerous. The Christians of Iraq are largely forgotten by the West despite the dangers they face. I think that is wrong.

  5. Americans won’t allow CHILDREN who have crossed many, many miles of desolate country to enter our borders as refugees.

    We only concern ourselves with matters outside the country — far outside the country. What ISIS is doing is predictable, unfortunately. My question is who or what country will allow these Christian refugees in?

    So sad. Prayers are lifting for some sanity to prevail, for the strength and endurance needed to be given to the populations being threatened, for reason and compassion to find a place within the Muslim hearts leading such horrible actions.

  6. Our church heard a testimony from a young Christian refugee called Lamma,from Syria last Sunday. Her story was so encouraging, that even in the face of the terrible attrocities in Syria she could say that God was still present in a very real and palpable way. Her church in Damascus had actually started to distribute food to the local community. She spoke of Muslims becoming Christians inspire of the attrocities. ( Lamma hopes to visit her family in Lebanon , please pray)
    My heart goes out to our brothers and sisters in Iraq . I am praying that they will not lose heart and that The Lord will be a shade and protection to them during these terrible times of persecution ( See Psalm 121) . Let the sword of Gods word smite the enemy. May The Lord exalt the humble and meek and put down the mighty from their seat >

  7. Your blog is so informative s is the information from ACN. I pray for the Christians of the Middle East and especially those in Mosul now. How very frightened they must be for their families and friends We need to pray and pray again for them all.

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