As the ISIS continues its jihadist rampage across the Middle East, a possible genocide is unfolding that few in the West seem to notice.
With all eyes on the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza, ISIS has continued its own offensive in Iraq virtually unchallenged, leaving thousands of Christians and Shia Muslims dead in its wake. Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and a historic site for Middle Eastern Christians, fell to ISIS in June, forcing thousands in the area to evacuate for fear of their lives.
ISIS, now simply calling itself the “Islamic State,” started on its path of conquest and destruction in mid-June. Largely spilling over from fighting in war-torn Syria, ISIS launched a massive offensive into Iraq which has claimed thousands of lives and displaced thousands more. Christians in ISIS-held territories have been given the option to convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, or face execution. Many instead choose to flee. Christians in Iraq are not heavily centralized, and therefore do not have the means to effectively organize, lobby for support, or defend themselves against aggression from much larger Muslim forces.
Up until the past few days, Western media outlets had remained mostly silent on the matter, but Christians throughout the world have not been so quiet. The brutal actions of ISIS has sparked protests worldwide, with thousands of Christians from Europe to Australia calling for action and praying for an end to the violence. The protesters use as their symbol the Arabic letter “N,” which stands for “Nasrani,” the Arabic word for “Christian.” In showing solidarity with Christians being persecuted in Iraq and Syria, the demonstrators hope to bring attention to the situation and to pressure media outlets to inform people of what is happening.
Catholic Bishop Czeslaw Kozon of Copenhagen, Denmark is among those Christians who hope that the protests will gain notice from the press and government officials. He feels that Western leaders have not done enough to speak out against ISIS, telling reporters, “It is worrying that so few are aware of what is happening and that there is very little press coverage.” Some Western government officials, however, are starting to speak out. In Paris, government officials have offered asylum to Iraqi Christians, and 100 members of French Parliament appeared with demonstrators.
On June 29, ISIS declared itself to be the new heir to the old Islamic Caliphate, and revealed their ambition to rule over the Middle East, North Africa, and even parts of Europe. In a bold move, ISIS appointed their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “Caliph,” ruler of all Muslims, and called on Muslims worldwide to support them. The Islamic State, while officially unrecognized, now controls most of eastern Syria and western Iraq. With the capture of the Haditha Dam north of Baghdad on August 3, it seems the jihadists are now closing in on Iraq’s capital, a city with over seven million residents.
On Thursday evening CNN was reporting the U.S. is now considering air strikes against ISIS. Stay tuned as the situation unfolds.