By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
BAGHDAD/DAMASCUS (BosNewsLife)-- Minority Christians in Syria and neighboring Iraq faced more upheaval Monday, July 7, after an Islamic group expelled tens of thousands of residents from their homes and crucified at least nine people.
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) reportedly forced some 30,000 people to leave their houses in the eastern Syrian town of Shuheil. Many fear their homes will be looted, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a respected monitoring group.
The ISIL, which declared the territory in Syria and Iraq a "caliphate," or Islamic state, also nailed nine men to a cross in Syria's Aleppo province last week as punishment for rebellion, several sources said.
Usually the men ISIL crucifies are shot in the head first, then hung for public viewing with their arms tied to a horizontal beam, according to observers familiar with the situation.
However one of the nine men was "crucified alive for eight hours" in the town of al-Bab, said the Syrian Observatory. The report didn't specify if the man was killed.
It was unclear whether Syrian troops, who apparently advanced in and around the northern city of Aleppo on Monday, July 7, would be able to halt the ISIL fighters. Yet, most Christians have already been forced to flee Syria and Iraq, where the head of the Chaldean-Catholic Church, Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, fears Christian life will eventually come to an end in the region.
"In ten years there will perhaps be 50,000 Christians left" in Iraq, he said in a statement released by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need and obtained by BosNewsLife. "Prior to 2003, this figure was about 1.2 million. Within ten years we have shrunk to a community of perhaps four to five hundred thousand faithful," he added.
"When I was in Turkey recently ten Christian families from Mosul arrived. And in the space of only one week twenty families left Alqosh, a completely Christian town not far from Mosul. This is very serious, we are losing our community."
The ISIL follows terror group al-Qaida's hard-line Islamic ideology. It draws heavily on foreign fighters, recruiting them through social media and websites such as YouTube.
Analysts say the military gains by ISIL have underscored how the conflict in Iraq is intertwined with civil war in Syria, which killed more than 160,000 people and displaced nearly a third of Syria's 23- million population.
Sako fears Iraq will soon fall apart. "At present there are three fragments of Iraq, a Sunni one, a Kurdish one and a Shiite one. The Kurds already enjoy autonomy anyway. The Shiites do as well in a sense. Now the Sunnis are following suit. Iraq will therefore be divided up."
The bishop condemned Western states who he said "find football" in the current World Cup "more interesting than the situation here or in Syria."
He said Western policy only pursues economic interests. "The international community should put pressure on Iraqi politicians to make them find a political solution and form a government of national unity."
Sako views the Sunni oriented ISIL as a global security threat. The group, he added, "intends to found an Islamic state with oil wells in order to Islamize the world. I think this is a danger for all."
(BosNewsLife (2004-2014) is the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians. It has been 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since May 2004).
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