Aware of ISIS’ ferocious reputation for murder and mayhem, thousands of Christians who lived in Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plain fled in panic when ISIS rebels captured Iraq’s second largest city from government forces on June 10. Many of those who escaped have sought refuge in this Christian enclave in the Kurdish city of Irbil, only an hour’s drive away from Mosul.
“All who are left there now are a few handicapped or sickly Christians,” said a Chaldean Catholic nun wearing a blue habit whose religious community fled Mosul on foot, walking north for four hours on June 10 along with thousands of other Christian and Sunni Muslim refugees. They all feared persecution at the hands of the insurgents, who follow a harsh seventh-century interpretation of the Koran that demands not only that women mostly stay indoors, but that church bells must never be rung, crosses must never be displayed and Christians must pay a “gold tax” in return for their lives.
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