Assyrian International News Agency AINA
July 6 2014

Churches Occupied, Mosques Destroyed, Nuns and Orphans Kidnapped in Iraq

By Paula Bolyard

Sister Utoor Joseph (left) and Sister Miskintah, who disappeared on
late Saturday, June 28 in Mosul (photo: Ishtar TV).Islamists militants
who seized parts of northern and western Iraq last month posted images
online Saturday of at least ten shrines and mosques they claim they
have destroyed in the province of Nineveh. Photos show bulldozers
knocking down Sunni Arab and Sufi shrines and explosives destroying
six Shiite mosques.

Residents of Mosul, which is the capital of Nineveh, said the
militants have also occupied two cathedrals belonging to Chaldean and
Orthodox Christians. Crosses on the churches have been replaced by the
black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the group
which recently declared the establishment of an Islamic caliphate.

On Tuesday, two nuns and three orphans went missing from an orphanage
in Mosul. It is believed they have been kidnapped by ISIS militants.
On Saturday, a senior Christian leader in Iraq appealed for their
release. "We are appealing for scholars in Mosul and tribal sheikhs to
help us release two nuns and three orphans," said Chaldean Patriarch
Louis Sako. "Christians are not party to these events," Sako added.
"We lived together side-by-side (with Muslims) for 14 centuries. We
still want to communicate and live together."

Iraq's Christian community has dwindled to a small fraction of what it
had once been -- once numbering more than a million nationwide, there
are now fewer than 400,000 across the country. Nearly all of Mosul's
Christians have fled since the city fell to ISIS on June 10th; ISIS
members bombed an Armenian church near al-Salaam hospital and
ransacked the Church of the Holy Spirit. Two days after the raid on
Mosul, ISIS imposed Sharia law and began demanding a poll tax from
Christians. On June 21st, ISIS members raped a mother and daughter who
could not afford to pay the poll tax and killed four women for not
wearing veils.