Following a series of murders of Christians in Mosul, the Archbishop of Mosul has warned that they all may leave the ancient Christian center if the violence continues. The killings are part of an effort to force believers to leave Mosul, he reported, urging more media coverage of the persecution.
Speaking to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) from Mosul on Thursday, Archbishop Amil Shamaaoun Nona said a sudden surge of killings in the northern Iraqi city has prompted more Christians to emigrate. This threatens the survival of a local Church whose origins date back to biblical times.
“If the situation continues as it has done, especially over the past few days, all the people will leave. It is very difficult to live in this kind of situation,” Archbishop Nona said. “It is panic – panic always. The Christians don’t know what will happen to them – it is the same everywhere: in the office, at school or even at home. They don’t know if somebody is going to kill them.”
He described the murder of four Christians as part of a politically motivated drive to force Christians from Mosul, emphasizing that the attacks had specifically targeted Christians. He said some groups will gain politically if all Christians leave.
On Wednesday 20-year-old student teacher Wissam Georges was killed. Zayia Thomas, an engineering student from Mosul University, was gunned down in the city’s al-Tahir district, while a fellow student was injured in the shooting. Two traders in Mosul have also been killed and another Christian man was recently kidnapped from his home in Mosul.
Christians are describing the attacks as a “massacre,” comparing them to Good Friday.
Archbishop Nona told ACN that up to ten families have fled Mosul since Wednesday. The city’s Christian population has drastically declined since 2003 when there were up to 5,000 families living there.
“What we are seeing is an effort to force Christians to leave Mosul. We don’t know who is behind the attacks,” the archbishop said.
The Church has begged Mosul authorities to improve security but has been told it was impossible to guarantee the safety of Christians.
Archbishop Nona has been in office for less than a month. At 42 years old, he is the Catholic Church’s youngest bishop in the region.
His predecessor, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, died in captivity in March 2008 after being kidnapped.
In September 2008 a series of killings and abductions forced half of the city’s faithful to leave Mosul. Most returned over the following months.
Others have sought sanctuary in Kurdistan to the north, where security is better. Many also intend to join family and friends in neighboring countries such as Syria and Jordan.
Archbishop Nona told ACN that more media coverage of the plight of Mosul Christians was “very important.”
“We desperately need you to pray for us,” he said.