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With Mosul’s Christians gone, Islamic State troops take over 4th-century monaste …

The Mar Behnam Monastery is a Syriac Catholic monastery in northern Iraq, close to the town of Beth Khdeda.

ERBIL, Iraq (RNS) A day after most of Mosul’s Christians fled, Islamic State fighters stormed the fourth-century Mar Behnam Monastery near the city.

The Mar Behnam Monastery is a Syriac Catholic monastery in northern Iraq, close to the town of Beth Khdeda.

Public domain image

The Mar Behnam Monastery is a Syriac Catholic monastery in northern Iraq, close to the town of Beth Khdeda.

They forced two priests, a monk and a guard taking refuge there to leave the Syriac Catholic compound, residents said. Like many Christians from Mosul, which lies in the province of Nineveh, home to many historic Christian places of worship, the refugees traveled to the relative safety of Kurdish-controlled areas.

Faced with an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious tax or be killed, by Saturday (July 19) most of Mosul’s Christians had fled. The following day, militants descended on the monastery.

Iraq’s second-largest city is now controlled by militants led by the Islamic State group, formerly known as ISIS, which has also taken over large swaths of the country, in addition to parts of Syria. Iraq’s army, which Christians say never adequately protected them, fell quickly.

The Christians of Mosul are thought to have numbered 35,000 at the time of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. That number dropped to an estimated 3,000 more recently. Only a few hundred families remained in the city before the ultimatum, according to one resident. Among them are members of the Syriac Catholic Church, one of 22 Eastern Catholic Churches, which are self-governing but enjoy full communion with Rome.

Left behind were many places of worship. Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church said the monastery is “very ancient and we have many ancient and important books in the library there.”

“This is our house and our country,” he said, adding that the militants are outsiders.

“They have no right to treat Christians in this way.”

The clerics from Mar Behnam fled to the Christian town of Qaraqosh, about 20 miles from Mosul. Qaraqosh is under Kurdish control.

Archbishop Petros from Mosul’s Syriac Catholic Church said Qaraqosh is safe for now and at least 250 Christian families have taken refuge there.

Petros described the Islamic State ultimatum to the Christians of Mosul as “a threat against humanity.”

A Christian woman hanging laundry outside her temporary home in Ankawa, the Christian district of the Kurdish capital, Erbil, said that after militants took over Mosul the family was left without water and electricity. The family fled from Baghdad in 2005 to escape discrimination there and has now found itself on the move again. Now the family is living in a small home with two other families in the Kurdish region.

“There is no stability in our lives,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “We are psychologically tired with this situation. I would leave Iraq at any opportunity but we have no other place to go exactly.”

Since the beginning of the year, when militants captured parts of Anbar province in western Iraq, an estimated 1.2 million people have been displaced by violence.

Shiite Muslims as well as Iraqi minorities such as Yazidis, Turkmen and Shabaks are particularly vulnerable to killings and capture by the Islamic State fighters. Human rights groups have expressed concern about attacks by Shiite militias and government airstrikes, as well as Islamic State raids.

This week, the U.N. Security Council denounced the persecution of minorities in Iraq, condemning “in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of individuals from minority populations.”


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Cathy Otten


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  • It appears the only community in Iraq which is really doing anything to help the Christians are the Kurds.

    The Sunnis are too caught up with their own animosities and in many cases working with ISIS.

    The Shia either don’t care or are doing the same thing in their own areas.

  • Morality is doing what is right no matter what you are told.
    Religion is doing what you are told no matter what is right.

    When all the religions of the world are abandoned and their temples are preserved as museums the world will finally be at peace.

    Science tells us we are all migrants from Africa.
    So we are all one people, one human race.
    Religion is nothing more than the lie that divides us.

  • Jesus said, in the last days the people of Nineveh will stand and accuse you.
    What will the rest of us be accused of?

  • Yes, we just need the materialists in charge. They did such a good job in the USSR, China, Cuba, and Cambodia. Ahh, peace at last… 🙂

    Once we discover that concepts of morality and meaning are a farce… nothing more than a series of highly evolved chemical reactions that allow us to out compete other animals, then we will have peace… For some reason, I have my doubts…

  • @David,

    Oh, please!

    These Straw men are NOT examples of Atheism:

    Josef Stalin, a Russian Orthodox Seminarian, was a self-appointed intermediary (CZAR) between God and the religion of the Soviet Russian state.
    He demanded FAITH in that religion including the miracles of Lysenko, or death.
    Using this religion he motivated people to kill millions of their countrymen.
    That is not Atheism – it is FAITH.

    Pol Pot was a Theravada Buddhist
    who ‘divined supernatural heaven’ of which he appointed himself
    leader and he demanded allegiance as self-appointed head of the religion
    of the state of Cambodia. Pol Pot was against all education and science.
    What Atheist ever did that?!!
He motivated people to kill millions of others on this belief.
    That is not Atheism – it is FAITH.

    Hitler and his SS were confessing Catholics and Lutherans,
    the Nazis BANNED EVOLUTION and ATHEISM, hailed a faith in the
    Aryan Race divine by God’s judgement and demanded full faith in the religion of the state. “Gott Mit Uns” God With Us.
    Hitler’s favorite Parable was “The 12 Minas” where
    Jesus said, “Take those who would not let me be their King and execute them in front of me” – Jesus (Luke 19:27).
    That is not Atheism – it is FAITH.

    Emperor Hirohito, was a cult of the Sun God – the sacrificial Kamikazes and the war of ‘sacred’ Japan.

    That is not Atheism – it is FAITH

    However, The United States has the only Godless constitution
    in the world today, thanks to Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson
    and Benjamin Franklin.
    That is ATHEISM!


    “bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and execute them in front of me.” – Jesus (luke 19:27)

    Yes. I am disgusted by Jesus.

  • Stipe,

    I remember you.
    If one asks people to think for themselves as I do; to reason rather appeal to faith, one cannot be Stalinist.

    If one promotes the US Constitution, as I do, and the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, one CANNOT be fascist.

    We’ve discussed this before.
    America is the only country which forbids fascism in its charter.
    America is the only country with a Godless constitution which ensures the roots of Theocracy cannot gain a foothold.

    Unless the right wing accomplishes the dismantling of the wall separating Church and State then neither of us will have any rights left at all.

    And The right wing Christian groups (as in Hobby Lobby) are dangerously close to making some headway against freedom.

  • “The United States has the only Godless constitution
    in the world today, thanks to Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson
    and Benjamin Franklin.
    That is ATHEISM!

    And yet each of those three professed a belief in God.
    That is not atheism.

    Max, you’re a riot.

  • I urge all readers to follow and support our campaign to support and protect the Christians of Iraq and Syria:

    We are not affiliated with any existing political organistaions or religious groups. We are a free association comprised of the Assyrian diaspora in over a dozen countries. On a daily basis, we disseminate media, coordinate e-mail and letter campaigns, write and publish articles, and contact parliamentarians, ministers, officials, and persons of authority and influence.

    Please join our group to strengthen our efforts and keep abreast of developments as well as responses to them.

    Thank you.

  • @Shawnie5,

    “And yet each of those three professed a belief in God.”

    You call Deism a profession of faith? LOL!

    Deism is a DODGE, not a GOD.

    Show me the god of Deism.
    Who are his martyrs?
    What is his holy name?
    Where is this “ancient” religion of Deism?
    What are its proclamations?
    What are its precepts?
    What are its sacrifices?
    Who are his prophets?
    Show me the name of this deist god.
    Show me the DEIST MANIFESTO
    or the DEIST BIBLE!
    Show me the Deist epiphany!
    Tell me of the Deist Transubstantiation!

    Show me the Deist Scriptures
    or the outline of the Deist Religion.
    How does one manifest these Deist beliefs?
    What are the Deist rituals!?
    What are the Deist responsibilities.

    LOL! Because there are none!

    Deism is a brilliant word for an Atheist to use
    To get off the religion wheel publicly
    and to shut down the religious forces arrayed against Atheists
    in world awash with superstition and religious BS!

    Atheists like me sit at home on Sundays.
    Just like the Deists! LOL!

  • Deist:
    “A god existed once, He may not exist anymore and he doesn’t care whether I believe in him or not. He doesn’t act on the world or on me personally and there is no punishment if I reject him completely.”

    Atheist – “I don’t believe in a god”

    There is no difference from these two positions.
    Atheism and Deism are essentially the same thing.

    Deism is a sophisticated dodge for an Atheist politician.
    Deism should be revived and used more often today.

  • I sympathize with the plight of all victims. But I would save Jesus himself first. Wouldn’t you?



    “I killed my son for your personal benefit” – Yaweh

    “He had to bleed to death” – Yahweh

    “His pain had to be excruciating” – Yahweh

    “It was not enough for him to hurt only a little bit.” – Yahweh

    “I needed to see his blood on the ground” – Yahweh

    “After I saw the blood of my son all over the ground under the cross
    I knew I could finally save humanity” – Yahweh

    “That was my plan all along, to turn into my own son
    and have myself tortured and murdered.” – Yahweh

    “I had to do it to save humans from the Hell
    I created for them.” – Yahweh

    “but only if they believe my story.” – Yahweh

    “If people refuse to believe this story about how I had to make my son bleed
    to death i will do worse things to them” – Yahweh


    Peace to all.

    – Atheist Max


    “I believe that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a Creator.”

    “I believe reason and observation of the natural world should be sufficient to determine the existence of a Creator.”

    There is no practical difference from these two positions.
    Atheism and Deism are essentially the same thing.

    Deism is a clear endorsement of reason over supernatural claims. DEIST: BELIEF ONLY FOLLOWS EVIDENCE.

  • It’s best to let Atheist Max have his say and let him be on his way. He obviously has an axe he needs to grind.