In these critical days when thousands of Muslim refugees are fleeing the war in Syria and Iraq and are flocking towards the gates of Christian Europe together with other Muslims (Afghanis, Bengalis and others), bear in mind the immense suffering of these unfortunate people, especially the non-Muslims. The Islamic State has formulated what it calls a “Covenant” in which it defines the rights and the duties of the non-Muslim population, mainly of Christian faith living in its boundaries.1
This “Covenant” was first distributed to the Christian population in the Syrian town of Alkaryatayn, southeast of the northern Syrian city of Homs which fell under the rule of the Islamic state in August 2015.
In return for their right to live safely under Islamic state rule, the Christians are instructed to abide by the following rules:
- Commit not to build or renovate in their towns’ churches or convents.
- Refrain from showing crosses or any of their sacred books on the walkways and roads used by Muslims or in their markets.
- The use of loudspeakers when performing prayers and other acts of worship is strictly forbidden.
- Prayers must be conducted in such a way that Muslims will not hear them nor shall they hear sounds of bells from their churches.
- Christians must commit not to engage in any acts of aggression against the Islamic State, such as harboring spies or criminals wanted by the Islamic State. Christians are obliged to report of any conspiracy against Muslims.
- Christians should refrain from appearing in public with artifacts of worship.
- Christians are due to revere Islam and Muslims and refrain from criticizing their religion.
- Every adult Christian is to pay in two installments yearly, the “jizya” (Arabic per-capita tax. Non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state are granted a dhimmi status allowing residence in return for jizya tax collected from non-Muslims) in the amount of four dinars of gold (each dinar weighs 4.25 grams of gold). The rich pay the full sum while the less fortunate pay only half the sum. The very poor would pay half of what the less fortunate are due to pay.
- Christians are forbidden to own weapons of any sort.
- Christians should refrain from selling pork or alcohol to Muslims or in their markets. Christians should not consume alcohol in public places.
- Christians should be buried in their separate cemeteries.
- Christians should respect rules set by the Islamic State relating to modesty in dress, commerce or anything else.
According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, the Islamic State received the full amount of the “jizya” from the Christian community in Alkaryatayn 24 hours after it stormed the town and after presenting to the Christians one of three choices:
- Pay the “jizya,”
- Convert to Islam,
- Leave town.
According to the Syrian Observatory, most Christians left town after the return of their personal ID confiscated by the Islamic State after entering the town. It should be emphasized that most of the Christian population dwelling under the Islamic State has left and their churches and holy shrines burned or destroyed. In early July 2014, IS militants seized the Chaldean archdiocese in Mosul, sacking the building and destroying every Christian symbol. They then destroyed Mosul’s Church of St. Ephrem, home to the Syriac Orthodox archbishopric. They did so despite a call by the imam from the nearby mosque to respect places of worship. The jihadists responded to the appeal by saying, “There is neither bishop nor church in the Islamic state.”2
In August 2015, the Islamic State destroyed the Mar Elyan Monastery in the Syrian town of Alkaryatayn, one of the oldest Christian historical shrines in the Middle East, in its bid to eradicate all signs of worship contrary to the Salafist creed.
The Islamic State is pursuing its policy of ethnic cleansing. The Christian fate in Syria will be similar to the one endured by the Christians in Iraq. Iraq’s Christian population, one of the oldest in the world, has been decimated since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq — cut by most estimates to less than half its size a decade ago. By some estimates, Christians numbered 1.4 million people, and in 2014, the estimation is that less than 400,000 are left in Iraq. The IS attitude towards non-Muslims is already evident in the conflict in Syria. In most of the places that fell under their influence the jihadists immediately expelled the Christian population or imposed on those who chose to stay the status of dhimmis with the payment of the jizya. Such behavior was also observed by other Jihadist organizations such as Jabhat al Nusra.3
The fate of the Iraqi and Syrian Christians can only arouse fear among the different minorities in Syria and Iraq that a similar fate could be theirs. When viewing the thousands of Muslims flocking to Europe, one should bear in mind those undeniable facts.
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