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The Rakyat Post
Iraqi Christians praying at the Saint George church on July 1, 2014 in the Kurdish autonomous region's capital Arbil. — AFP pic
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Baghdad, July 18:
Christians in Mosul have been threatened with death by the Islamic State group if they do not to convert to Islam or pay a tax, Al Jazeera reports.
The Sunni rebel group issued the orders in a letter after Friday prayers.
The document, sighted by Al Jazeera, states the order was issued after Christian leaders failed to attend a meeting called by the group.
The group says in the letter that Christians must either convert to Islam, pay a special tax on non-Muslims known as jiziya, or face death “as a last resort”.
Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, was overrun by the Islamic State group and allied rebel groups last month.
According to Al Jazeera, Iraqi army units stationed in the city, most of whom were Shia, fled after the group crossed from Syria and attacked the north of Iraq.
Before the attack, Mosul’s Christian community was estimated at 3,000. Many are believed to have already fled the city as part of an exodus of up to one-third of the population.
Churches and Christian-owned shops in the city were reported smashed by those who fled.
The Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, held a sermon in Mosul’s grand mosque two weeks ago, calling on all Muslims to unite behind his group.
The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has issued similar demands in areas in control in Syria, and has posted pictures of Christians being crucified for disobeying orders in Raqqa.
Church leaders in Iraq have not responded to the threats officially.
Nickolay Mladenov, the head of the United Nations assistance mission In Iraq, condemned the order.
“Any persecution of minorities constitutes a crime against humanity and we urge all sides to protect civilians.
“We have produced a report listing attacks on civilians and have brought this up at the highest levels of the Iraqi government.”