MOSCOW, August 14. /ITAR-TASS/. Iraqi Christians have been exposed to an unprecedented terror by Islamist gunmen in the last few months, the Moscow Patriarchate Department of External Church Relations said in a statement on Thursday.
“A cruel aggression against Christians in Iraq has become systemic, turning into a real genocide,” the statement runs.
“Ideologists of the so-called Islamic State are fulfilling a task of total extermination or ousting Christians from their territories, committing mass murders, deporting people by force and stripping them of all property.”
On August 7, extremists have captured the city of Qaraqosh mainly populated by Christians, the Moscow Patriarchate’s department added.
“Around 50,000 Christians have fled the city. According to charity organizations in Iraq, refugees, many of which are hiding in the highlands, experience extreme shortages of water, food and clothes, people die of famine and thirst at refugee camps,” the statement reads. Many of 70,000 Christian refugees have to spend all nights outdoors in the Iraqi Kurdistan capital city of Erbil and more than 60,000 in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Dohuk.
All 45 Christian churches in the city were destroyed, looted or turned into mosques after gunmen’s invasion in northern Iraqi city of Mosul on June 6. Eleven churches were completely burnt down.
“According to media reports, gunmen in Mosul regularly execute children of Christians, cutting off their heads and then displaying them to intimidate people,” the Moscow Patriarchate’s department said in the statement.
“Christians were ordered to leave Mosul or convert to Islam and those who refused to do so were brutally executed,” said head of the Chaldean Catholic Church Louis Raphael I Sako, who witnessed the tragedy.
The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) “urges all involved political forces and good-willed people to take major effort to protect religious minorities in Iraq and condemn terror,” the statement said.
Around 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq before 2003. Religious radicalism that started spreading ten years ago resulted in a larger part of Christian population fleeing the homeland.