Iraq's Remaining Christians Take Refuge, Prepare to Fight

Image: Iraq's Remaining Christians Take Refuge, Prepare to Fight An Iraqi Christian woman stands inside her house on June 18, 2014, in the town of Bartala. (Getty Images)

Sunday, 22 Jun 2014 05:21 PM

By Greg Richter

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Many members of the minority Christian population in Iraq have long fled to the friendlier areas of Sweden, Germany, Great Britain and the United States.

But those who remain are now taking refuge in monasteries and preparing to fight if they have to, The Telegraph reports.

"I stand here waiting for my destiny," Capt. Firaz Jacob told The Telegraph's Richard Spencer.

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Standing at the last checkpoint into Mosul, Jacob and a band of 600 volunteers and backed by a small number of Kurds. Their chances against an onslaught of heavily financed Sunni Islamist militants bent on imposing strict Sharia law are slim.

The group, calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has taken over parts of Syria and a large swath of northern Iraq with the aim of setting up an Islamic caliphate. American officials warn they want to use the area as a base of operations from which to launch terror attacks on Europe and the United States.

But the threat is more immediate for the areas Christians and other minorities.

"All these armed groups we have seen, but nevertheless we will remain," Jacob told The Telegraph. "We love our Christian way of life, we love our churches and we love our community."

ISIS has told the Christians they have nothing to fear as long as they obey their version of strict Sharia law. But The Telegraph notes that those assurances may not last.

When jihadists took over Raqqa in Syria, life seemed better for residents at first. But eventually, they took over the town's two churches, tore down the crosses and converted them into jihadi battalion recruiting stations.

Andy Darmoo, head of a London charity for Iraqi Christians, told The Telegraph that it is likely that only 200,000 remain of the 1 million Christians who lived in Iraq when U.S.-led allies invaded in 2003.

Some of the Iraqi Christians are resettling in the Kurdistan Regional Government area, but if their front line with ISIS is now 600 miles long and would be hard to defend against ISIS.

Christians have lived in the region since the first century, and monks are believed to have helped the Caliphs translate Greek scientific and philosophical texts into Arabic in the eighth century.

As a minority, Christians have face persecution from various groups for two millennia. They have always persevered, but many are wondering if ISIS may finally be their end.

Those who aren't leaving are vowing to stay even if it means their death.

"Now I don’t know if Christians will remain here. But leaving is not a solution. I am a son of Bartilla," Father Binham Lallou of the Chaldean Catholic Church told The Daily Beast.

"I don’t have any value without my home. I won’t have value if I live in Sweden or somewhere else. This my home, this is my place."

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