A group of about 200 Muslims joined Christians in solidarity in front of the Chaldean Church of St. George Sunday to condemn the attacks on the Christian community in Mosul carried out by the Islamic State.
Some Muslims held up signs or wore shirts with the words “I am Iraqi, I am Christian,” written on them. Others marked themselves with a “nun,” the first letter of the Arabic word for Christian, “Nasrani” or Nazarene. The Islamic State has been putting “nuns” on Christian property marked out for seizure.
The Chaldean faithful who joined them after Mass sang the national anthem along with them, as Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I Sako thanked them: “This brings hope for a new Iraq. I think especially of the young people, who have the task and the duty to change the situation.”
During the Mass, Patriarch Sako said that Islamic State militants who drove Christians out of Mosul were worse than Mongol leader Genghis Khan and his grandson Hulagu who ransacked medieval Baghdad, according to Reuters. “The heinous crime of the Islamic State was carried out not just against Christians, but against humanity,” he said. “This has never happened in Christian or Islamic history. Even Genghis Khan or Hulagu didn’t do this.”
Hulagu Khan led a Mongol army which sacked Baghdad in 1258, killing tens of thousand of people, destroying a caliphate which lasted nearly 600 years and leaving the city in ruins for centuries.
According to the patriarch, it “is a shame and a crime to force innocent people from their homes and confiscate their properties because they are ‘different,’ because they are Christians. The whole world must rebel against these abominable acts.”
Christians, he said, “love Muslims and consider them our brothers and sisters; they must do the same. We are all equal in dignity, all citizens of the same country. We must unite to create a new Iraq.”
Outside, Christians prayed the Our Father and the Muslims the sura al Fatiha, the summary of the Muslim creed from the Quran.
Meanwhile, Auxiliary Bishop of the Chaldean Patriarchate Shlemon Warduni called for an international response. “The world must act, speak out, consider human rights,” he said, adding that the Iraqi state was weak and divided and Muslim leaders had remained silent.
“We haven’t heard from clerics from all sects or from the government,” he told Reuters on Sunday. “The Christians are sacrificed for Iraq.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki condemned the treatment of the Christians and what he described as attacks on churches in Mosul, saying it showed “the extreme criminality and terrorist nature of this group,” according to Reuters. He said he instructed a government committee set up to support displaced people across Iraq to help the Christians who had been made homeless, but did not say when the army might try to win back control of Mosul.
“What is being done by the Daesh terrorist gang against our Christian citizens in Ninevah province, and their aggression against the churches and houses of worship in the areas under their control reveals beyond any doubt the extremist criminal and terrorist nature of this group,” al-Maliki said in a statement released by his office, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned “the systematic persecution of minority populations in Iraq by Islamic State and associated armed groups,” in particular the recent threats against Christians in Mosul, according to a statement released Sunday.
He also said the U.N. would intensify its efforts to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the displaced.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility late Saturday for four bombings in Baghdad which were among a string of attacks that killed at least 27 people earlier in the day. It said two of the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers — Abu al-Qaaqaa al-Almani and Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Shami. The names indicate they were German and Syrian respectively.
The authenticity of the Islamic State group’s statement could not be independently verified, but it was posted on a militant website frequently used by it.
One Christian who left Mosul last week described how he fled with his family when he learned of the Islamic State deadline. “We gathered all our belongings and headed for the only exit. There was a checkpoint on the road and they were stopping cars there,” 35-year-old Salwan Noel Miskouni said, according to a Reuters report.