Islamic State beheads Christians for supposed 'apostasy'

A Syriac Orthodox bishop of Mount Lebanon and Tripoli has been quoted as saying that Muslims are 'enemies of Jesus', in light of both ancient and modern persecution of Christians. Graphic photos.

Syriac Orthodox Bishop George Saliba of Mount Lebanon and Tripoli denounced Muslims as enemies of Jesus, while accusing them of a long history of violence and persecution of Christians. "What is happening in Iraq is a strange thing, but it is normal for Muslims, because they have never treated Christians well, and they have always held an offensive and defaming stand against Christians," said Bishop Saliba according to Elnashra.com "We are not calling for armament and war; we don't have the capacities," Saliba said. "We used to live and coexist with Muslims, but then they revealed their canines [teeth]."
 
The bishop accused Muslims of centuries of violence against Christians, while he condemned the attacks on the Christians of Iraqi Mosul. "[They don't] have the right to storm houses, steal and attack the honor of Christians," Saliba said. "Most Muslims do this, the Ottomans killed us and after that the ruling nation-states understood the circumstances but always gave advantage to the Muslims." Saliba also said Muslims are raised to have bad feelings about Christians, saying "Islam has never changed, and Muslims have been educated on the bad treatment of Christians." 

 
"We are not surprised by these behaviors, but we [put hopes] on some Muslims brothers who do not support such behaviors, despite them being a minority."
 
According to Elnashra, the General Coordinator of the Islamic Work Front in Lebanon, Sheikh Zouheir Al-Joaid, condemned Saliba and accused him of hatred and ignorance.
 
"The bishop's attack on Islam and Muslims betrays his bad and hateful background, and his ignorance about the religion that had supported Christians and their holy places for the long centuries of Islamic rule," Joaid sad, according to the July 30 report. Regarding the bishop's contention that Muslims are the enemies of Jesus Christ, he said 
"These are defamation against Islam, its content and what the Quran said about our master Issa the Christ, peace be upon him."
 
Joaid stressed that all moderate Muslim religious authoritieshad condemned the behavior of the fundamentalist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. "What the terrorist ISIS has done to Muslims is much greater than what they did to others," he said. Joaid demanded an apology from Saliba or that he deny them if they were incorrectly reported. 
 
Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi, of the Kataeb party, made comments similarly controversial on July 26 in a speech condemning the attacks on the Christians of Mosul. "We are not embarrassed to raise the voice and publicly say: We have tried all forms of common life, common state, region and village; what have we gained from all these experiences since 1400 years?" Azzi asked, referring to the beginning of Islam in the seventh century. "What they couldn't get in the era of conquests, they are trying to get it in the era of revolutions," he added. "We will not allow them to get it and we will safe-guard our honor and dignity and [protect] the free Christian existence."
 
Mosul is now empty of Christians ever since ISIS militants demanded conversion or death for the tiny minority remaining there. Reports and photographs have emerged from Iraq that Christians have been beheaded by ISIS forces. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Iraq sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon earlier this month begging for help for the region's beleaguered Christians who, Sako said, have been "disproportionately" effected by the violence there. In his letter, Patriarch Sako told Ban, "Excellency, we Christians are peace-loving citizens  caught up in the middle of a clash between Sunnis and Shiites, as well as attacks from Military groups. Our community has suffered a disproportionate share of hardship caused by sectarian conflicts, terrorist attacks, migration and now even ethnic cleansing: the militants want to wipe out the Christian community. We appeal urgently to the United Nations to pressure the Iraqi government and put into practice every effort to protect the ethnic and religious minorities. The new government, once established, should engage in the protection of minorities and the fight against extremism."
 
According to a congregation of messianic Jews living in Jerusalem, an evangelical pastor sent grisly photographs of eight Christians beheaded by ISIS. According to the report received this week by pastors Benjamin and Reuven Berger of the Derech Avraham Initiative at Christ Church Jerusalem, eight Christians were beheaded in Mosul for supposed apostasy from Islam. Their heads were displayed for public view. In a statement on their website, they wrote "We share with you an eyewitness report of the persecution of Christians in Iraq. It is gruesome, but it is important that the word gets out. It is important because we must pray for our persecuted brethren and because we must continue to pray -- with all earnestness -- 'Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.'" 
 
According to their website, a pastor in northern Iraq told them, "I'm so sorry for sending you such pictures ... but I want you to see in close what Satan is doing here against the Christians and especially against those whom converted into Christianity. This is what ISIS [now theIslamic State is] exactly doing in Nineveh. Eight young people were accused by the court of ISIS in Mosul that they had left Islam and converted to Christianity. During noon prayer time of Islam in one of the mosques, they read some verses in Qur'an which talk about conversion then started to scream out (Allahu akbar). They beheaded all eight in front of the people very publicly. I see the situation is getting worst (sic) here in my country. Please pray for us continually for the Christians even in this region are frightened and scared and many are trying to leave the country every day." Patriarch Sako has estimated that Christians in Mosul numbered 60,000 as of 2003. 
 
The pastor also reported that Christians who have fled to the Kurdish-controlled area of northern Iraq are finding it hard to find adequate housing there. He also described the dire choices that the ISIS Sunni Muslim jihadis imposed on them before their flight to safety."The Islamic State gave Christians in Mosul and the surrounding areas until noon July 19 to decide whether to convert to Islam, leave, pay the minority tax or die. One of the families staying with the pastor reported that as the deadline approached, they saw some Christian families decide to convert. The rest rejected the jizya (religious tax) and preferred to leave the city. On the border of Nineveh and Erbil provinces, the Islamic State checkpoint stopped them. They were told to hand over all their jewels, silver, money and extra clothes. The females were told to take off their bras and shorts because they are not allowed in Islam."
 
According to the website, one of the Christian girls fleeing from Mosul to Erbil was abducted by the jihadis and subjected to four days of continual sexual harassment. Only after the payment of $150,000 ransom was she released. Last week, another Christian village which is already under the protection of the Peshmarga (Kurdish militia) were told to leave the village within 48 hours or it would be bombed. The pastor said, "We need you to pray for us to be able to help them more in this difficult circumstances. Please keep praying and let your eyes keep open."
 
Several high-ranking Catholic prelates recently visited to show solidarity with the Christian refugees now sheltered in northern Iraq. Cardinal Archbishop Philip Barbarin of France, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako, Bishop Michel Dubost of Avry (France), Chaldean Archbishop Joseph Thomas of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah, and Chaldean Archbishop Emil Nona of Mosul, joined Syriac Catholic Bishop  Youhana Boutros Moshi. At the Church of the Immaculate Conception, where the townspeople were waiting, Archbishop Moshi thanked the visitors for their solidarity with Iraqi Christians. He spoke of their perseuction by the ISIS Sunni Muslim jihadis while praising the city and people of Baghded for receiving Christian refugees with shelter and assistance. 
 
On July 26, thousands of people assembled in Paris and Lyon to show their support for persecuted Iraqi Christians. In a joint statement, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that the French government is ready to offer asylum to Iraqi Christians forced to flee from their homes. "We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum on our territory."
 
 
 


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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