A sobering glimpse inside a town in northern Iraq that is now empty of Christians, from Christian Today:
Qaraqosh had been home to Iraq’s largest Christian community, with at least a quarter of the country’s Christian population living in the city and its surrounding towns. Its exodus prompted further concerns about the future of Christianity in the Middle East, and calls for the international community to open their borders to those fleeing persecution.
Father Nageed Michaeel, a Dominican priest, was among those who left Qaraqosh on August 6, walking 40km on foot to Erbil in the middle of the night with around 50,000 others.
“It was terrible. There were women and children with no food and water,” he recalled of the journey in an interview with Kurdish news agency Rudaw. Of the situation in Erbil, he said the tens of thousands left stranded were getting desperate. “We are in a tunnel and cannot see the light,” he said.
No Christians are believed to remain in in Qaraqosh, and it is still in the hands of ISIS. In December of last year, an Iraqi priest told the Sunday Times that Bahnam Wa Sara and Al Kiama churches in the town were being used by ISIS to hold prisoners.
“These two churches are being used as prisons and for torture,” Abu Aasi said, speaking from Baghdad where he had fled.
“Most inside are Christians and they are being forced to convert to Islam. ISIS have been breaking all the crosses and statues of Mary.”