The vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq has warned the end for Christians in the country appears “very near” as he appealed for help after a deadline set by Islamic militants to convert or be killed expired.
Canon Andrew White, dubbed "the vicar of Baghdad" for his work at St George's church in the capital, spoke after the ultimatum handed to Christians in the northern city of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq Levant (Isis) to convert, pay a tax or be put to death passed last week.
For those Christians who did not comply with the decree by 19 July, Isis warned that "there is nothing to give them but the sword.” Many have since fled their homes and Rev. Andrew-White told BBC Radio 4 Today desperate Christians were trapped in the desert or on the streets with nowhere to go.
"Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing," he said. "We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off.
"Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near."
A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that from 14 July homes in Mosul were painted with the letter “N” for Nasrani (the Arabic word for Christian). Others were painted with the letter “R” for Rafidah, a word commonly used by Sunni to describe Shia.
The vicar is in London to speak about the crisis and raise awareness of the urgent need to provide more help to the persecuted minority.
"The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go," he told the programme.
"We do not want Britain to forget us. We - and I'm saying 'we' talking like an Iraqi Christian - have always been with the British because they have already been with us.
"Individual churches, individual Christians in Britain, have been a bigger help than anybody around the world."
Up to a million Christians lived in Iraq prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, with many residing in areas such as Mosul where the communities date back to the first centuries of Christianity.
There are now thought to be fewer than half that number.
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