Christians are clamoring to leave Iraq, claims a prominent Vicar, threatening to eliminate the religion altogether from the Middle Eastern country.
The Rev. Canon Andrew White, who is considered the “Vicar of Baghdad,” says ISIS militants have taken over most of the churches in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province and that it is only a matter of time before all Christians flee the region, reports the Telegraph.
“Last week there was no communion in Nineveh for the first time in 2,000 years,” White said. “All [the churches] are closed, all their people have run away. It is so sad.”
Members of the Islamic State reportedly stormed the area this past summer, demanding Christians convert to Islam, pay taxes for their faith, or be put to death. ISIS militants have reportedly set up offices in churches and have even replaced crosses with their flags, reports the Christian Post. As many as 200,000 Christians have reportedly left their homes as a result of this aggressive takeover.
“Many Christians here are very frightened about what has happened to their community up in the north,” White said. “Some have relatives who have lost everything: their homes, furniture, cars. They have nothing left at all.”
White says his congregation at St. George’s Church in Baghdad has only 1,000 members now that ISIS has infiltrated the country.
“I used to say to my people: ‘Don’t you leave. I’m not going to leave you, don’t leave me.’ But now every one of them wants to leave and the ones who are left tend to be the poorer ones who couldn’t get away earlier.”
White was also vocal about his feeling that the only way to fight ISIS is for U.S. and British troops to battle them on the ground so that fewer civilian casualties take place.