Iraqi Christians flee Mosul after being told to convert or face death

Christians are fleeing the Iraqi city of Mosul after being told they will be killed if they do not to convert to Islam or pay a special tax by Saturday afternoon. Insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) issued the orders in a letter after Friday prayers, Al Jazeera reports. The document states that the order had been issued because Christian leaders failed to attend a meeting called by the group. Mosul’s new rulers said there would be “nothing for them but the sword” if Christians did not abide by those conditions before noon on Saturday.

For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.

Louis Sako, leader of Iraq’s largest Christian community

Thousands of Christians are pouring into Kurdistan, AFP says. Most Christians in the northwestern Nineveh province fled after ISIL militants began enforcing an extreme version of sharia (Islamic law) on June 9. But many of the poorest families returned when the fighting stopped. Louis Sako, the leader of Iraq’s largest Christian community, said he believed there were still 25,000 Christians in Mosul on Thursday. The mass displacement is the latest in six weeks of turmoil that has forced more than 600,000 people from their homes.