Iraq: PM condemns attacks on Christians
Iraq’s prime minister on Sunday condemned the Islamic State extremist group’s actions targeting Christians in territory it controls, saying they reveal the threat the jihadists pose to the minority community’s “centuries-old heritage.”
The comments from Nouri al-Maliki come a day after the expiration of a deadline imposed by the Islamic State group calling on Christians in the militant-held city of Mosul to convert to Islam, pay a tax of face death. Most Christians opted to flee to the nearby self-rule Kurdish region or other areas protected by Kurdish security forces.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis expressed his concern Sunday for Mosul’s Christians, offering prayers in his traditional Angelus blessing for Iraqi Christians who “are persecuted, chased away, forced to leave their houses without out the possibility of taking anything” with them.
Residents in Mosul also say the Islamic State group’s fighters recently have begun to occupy churches and seize the homes of Christians who have fled the city.
These actions stem from the harsh interpretation of Islamic law the group seeks to impose on the territory it controls in Iraq and neighboring Syria. Already in Mosul, the extremist group has banned alcohol and water pipes, and painted over street advertisements showing women’s faces. It has, however, held off on stricter punishments so far.
The U.N. special representative to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, condemned the persecution of all minority religious communities, including Christian, Shabak, Yazidi and Turkmen, in Mosul and the surrounding province of Ninevah. Mladenov said the U.N. will provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced.
Al-Maliki also tried to rally support for those uprooted from their homes, calling on government agencies to provide “all the necessities for a decent life” for them. He also took the opportunity to urge “the whole world to tighten the siege on those terrorists and stand as one force to confront them.”
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