A local Nineveh official in Iraq confirmed last Friday with almost certainty that militant members of the Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) dug up the grave of revered biblical prophet Jonah (Younis in Arabic) in the east of Mosul as Christians continue to flee that country by the hundreds daily.
In an Iraqi News report, the official, Zuhair al-Chalabi said since ISIL militants invaded Mosul, they have controlled the mosque of Jonah and have strong evidence suggesting that his grave has been disturbed.
"The elements of ISIL controlled the mosque of the Prophet Younis in Mosul since they invaded the city. It is still held by them until now," said Chalabi, explaining that "elements of ISIL engaged in the process of tampering with the contents of the Mosque."
"There is almost certain information stating the fact that the elements of ISIL dug up the grave of the Prophet Younis," he added.
Christian leaders in Iraq insist that Muslims and Christians have lived peacefully together for a long time but fear the current violence could hasten the end of nearly 2,000 years of Christianity in Iraq.
According to archbishops from Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk in a Reuters report, war and sectarian conflict in Iraq shrunk the country's Christian population to about 400,000 from 1.5 million in 2003. Now Christians are fleeing to places like Turkey, Lebanon and Western Europe, hastening the demise of almost 2,000 years of Christianity in Iraq.
"The next days will be very bad. If the situation does not change, Christians will be left with just a symbolic presence in Iraq," said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, who is based in Baghdad. "If they leave, their history is finished."
"Our presence was a symbol of peace, but there's so much panic and few Christians see their future in Iraq," said Kirkuk's Chaldean Catholic Archbishop, Youssif Mirkis.