A priest from Nineveh has claimed that Christianity "is finished in Iraq," amid the ongoing conflict and thousands of Christians fleeing persecution from members of ISIS.
"Today the story of Christianity is finished in Iraq," Father Nawar told the Catholic News Agency. "It's a very difficult life … very, very difficult. [Families] are dying because of the temperatures, dying because they can't eat, dying because of fear, and also because of war, of bombs."
Father Nawar is originally from Nineveh, considered the Christian capital of Iraq, but ISIS forces took over the city and told Christians that they either had to convert to Islam or face death by the sword. The residents then fled to Kurdish areas in the country, where they were welcomed and able to take refuge. However, there were so many refugees there with very little resources.
"Christian people need peace in order to live," Father Nawar said. "They don't live from war. They don't need people, or even the president, no. They need peace to live. This is important."
Over 200,000 Christians and minorities have fled their homes in order to seek refuge elsewhere. ISIS continues its daily assault on those it deems a hindrance to building an Islamic caliphate, which is its ultimate goal. Those in Kurdistan have taken in numerous refugees, but the United States is sending help and aid to those in the Kurdish areas as well as carrying out airstrikes to help the Kurdish armies.
Father Nawar said that his family was fortunate because they were able to leave before ISIS invaded and took refuge in the northern city of Armota.
"My family is well because they are rich – they can rent a house. But other families, poor, where do they go? There isn't money. There is no food. There is no oven. There is nothing. There are so many families who can't eat, they can't get bread. Today many families are in Ankawa, more or less 200,000 people. But it's difficult. All these people right now are sleeping on the street, in the garden, in the car. There aren't any available spaces," Nawar explained.
"When ISIS arrives, the Christians must change religion or escape. There is no other option," he added. Change religions, become Muslim, and those who don't convert, leave. There is not mercy today in this life."