A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, July 21, 2014

The End of Christianity in Mosul?

Part II of the Hester Stanhope post is coming later, or tomorrow, but I wanted to comment on recent developments in Mosul.

Christianity arrived in Mosul as early as the Second Century AD, from the early Christian center at Edessa, and is said to have been the third-ranking Metropolitanate in the Assyrian Church by about 300. It has remained a major center of both the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church, with other denominations such as Syriac Orthodox also present. Confronted with a declaration by ISIS that Christians must either convert to Islam, pay a jizya tax, or face death (a very strict interpretation of Islamic law), most or all of Mosul's Christian population has reportedly fled to Erbil, Dohuk, or other cities under Kurdish control. The fate of Mosul's ancient churches and monasteries appears grim.

Earlier, external crosses were reportedly removed from churches, and he tomb of Yunus, equated wih the Biblical Jonah, was reportedly destroyed. Photos circulated over the weekend of an ancient church being burned, and today it's being reported that the Monastery of Mar Behnam near Mosul has been seized and its monks expelled. By one Kurdish account, only 200 Christians remain in Mosul.

This is not characteristic of Muslim treatment of Christians, as the survival of Iraqi Christianity after 14 centuries of Muslim rule indicates, as does a joint Muslim-Christian service at a Chaldean Church in Baghdad.

Iraqi Christians have been under fire since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the US occupation,but now the Chaldean Patriarch is saying the Islamic State is worse than the Mongols.

Shi‘ite shrines have also been attacked by the "Caliphate." Yazidis are also said to be fleeing Mosul, as are, reportedly, the Shabak and Turkmen minorities. Most are seeking refuge in the Kurdistan Regional Government's territory. I hope to address these minorities as I learn more details.

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