In the continuing saga of Christians who are still being detained in Islamic State, news has been received of the escape of ten elderly Christians, some with disabilities.
The group, eight men and two women, were “expelled” by IS militants for refusing to convert to Islam.
They spent two days traveling and arrived in Kirkuk on January 7th, an area now under the control of Kurdish Peshmerga Forces, after being forced to leave a temporary residence in Mosul.
The group had been living in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, for nearly three months after IS militants forced them out of a nursing home in Qaraqosh on October 24th, said the nun who met them, Sister Teresa (name changed for security).
Teresa has worked at a monastery in Erbil after also having fled Islamic State in August of 2014 when IS rebels attacked Qaraqosh. She confirmed that militants stole these elderly Christians’ money, jewelry and IDs.
The group told a World Watch Monitor (WWM) source working in Erbil that they were pressured to say the Islamic Shahada, which is a spoken confession of faith to become Muslim. Rahel, one of the women from the group, said “We did not want to become Muslim; we just wanted to leave.”
“When we were in Qaraqosh, IS used to beat us every day with their weapons or hands,” one of the elderly men told Teresa. “They gave us little food. But when we were taken to Mosul, we were held in a hall with other people, and there was another hall beside us, too, and we could hear more people there. They were rounded up and detained, as well.”
He continued, “One day, a member from IS came and called some of our names and said ‘Stand up, we will call you soon!’ We thought that they will kill us, but later they took us and we asked them ‘When are you going to let us leave?’ An IS member replied – ‘Not without ransom.’”
“They had thrown us out from our villages and our homes so they could occupy them and then we were all clumped together in a residence in Mosul,” said one of the elders to the news agency Agenzia Fides. “We managed to survive, thanks to the assistance of some Muslim families who brought us food and what we needed. Then, our captors told us we could stay there only if we converted to Islam. I refused. If you want, send me away” he said.
According to Ankawa, an Assyrian news agency, the group had to wait before being allowed into the Kurdish region because all roads have been closed between Mosul and Kirkuk.
The group arrived January 6th at Alkhaled checkpoint, a contact line between the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Islamic State, before being granted official approval to enter. Upon entry they were transferred to the Chaldean Diocese.
Teresa said several Christians are still being held against their will throughout the region and that the church is trying to negotiate their release and has already paid IS money to set them free. “Among them is a 3-year-old girl that IS has demanded thousands of dollars to release.”
She estimates about 40 Christians from Qaraqosh, Bartella and Karamles are still detained in an elderly care home in Mosul.
Thank You, Father, for Your hand of protection upon these ten men and women, our fellow Christians. Continue to protect and heal them, Father. Provide for their needs and for those of the many others who have fled. Thank You for those who are committed to caring for them and working toward the release of the others who have still been detained by IS militants. We pray for peace and an end to the violence inflicted by IS militants, and we pray that even as evil seems to overwhelm Your Church, we know that You will continue grow and strengthen her. In the name of Jesus, God who dwelt among us that we might live, Amen.