ISIS to Iraqi Christians: 'Obey, Pay, or Leave'
BARTILLA, Iraq -- Throughout its Iraq campaign, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has targeted Christians. Many fled to the relative safety of Kurdish Iraq, but most still fear the wrath of the world's most brutal jihadist group.
Pastor Majeed, CBN News' guide, drove with us toward Nineveh where most of the country's besieged Christians have fled. It wasn't long until we went as far as the Kurdish army, called the Peshmerga, would allow us to go.
"So this is the end line. We cannot go any more," Majeed explained.
To travel beyond the town of Bartilla is to risk running into the ISIS. The jihadist group controls the mountains not far from the town. A few kilometers down the road, there's an ISIS checkpoint.
About 25,000 Christians have fled to Bartilla, but CBN News couldn't find one who would talk on camera out of fear of retribution.
The conditions in Bartilla are abysmal. There's no water because ISIS turned it off. And there's no electricity because Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's government turned that off.
People here are protected by the Peshmerga, who have set up a perimeter around the town and a few other towns in the area.
These people know that ISIS could come in and kill most of the people here. They're asking for prayer from Christians around the world. One Christian leader said they're asking for prayer just as the Apostle Paul did, praying that God will protect the town and the region.
Bartilla lies just a few miles from Nineveh or Mosul, the first major conquest for ISIS just a few days ago. The town was nearly deserted.
While Christians refused to talk on camera, CBN News talked to one of the house church leaders.
On our way back to the Kurdish capital, Erbil, Pastor Majeed told us when ISIS captured Nineveh, it gave Christian residents three choices: obey, pay or leave.
"That they are not allowed to open their churches. And even if they open them they will burn the churches," Majeed explained. "And also the Christians have been requested -- been asked to pay the tax [dhimmi, the tax for non-Muslims under Islamic rule]."
"If not, they can leave Nineveh," he continued. "And if they don't leave and don't pay the tax, they should give their heads." He was talking about beheading.
In the midst of this cauldron surrounding Iraq's Christians, Majeed sent out a prayer S.O.S.
"So please raise up prayer for us. This is what we need," he said. "We do believe that prayer is very important because we hear when man is work[ing], man is working. But when man is praying, God is working."
"So it is important for the churches outside Iraq to raise up prayers and also to fast for the sake of the people of Iraq," he continued.
"It's important for the other churches to pray for them to be protected," he admonished. "Please pray for us -- this is the only thing for the right time. We have nothing to do. People outside can do nothing for us except praying."