'They just go around and shoot the odd person dead'. Vicar of Baghdad on ISIS
'Vicar of Baghdad' Canon Andrew White has warned that Christianity in Iraq could be close to extinction. And he has called on the British government to do more to help Christians fleeing Iraq.
Canon White, on a weekend visit to the UK where he visited churches including the Chiswick Christian Centre and The Church of the Ascension in Balham, said numbers in St George's Baghdad had decreased from 6,500 to 1,000.
Many fled to Mosul, across the river Tigris from the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh. Now they have been forced by ISIS to flee Mosul also, most escaping to Kurdistan.
Although ISIS had not taken over Baghdad, where he returns tomorrow (Monday 28th), they were certainly present in the city, he said. Speaking to Christian Today, he added: "They just go around and shoot the odd person dead."
When he is there White lives under lockdown and curfew in the church, and is brought food by members of the local community and the 165 staff members at St George's.
"I can't do anything. I can't go and visit my people any more
"The only answer is that we stay together, we keep loving each other and loving God, that is all we can do. There is no solution in a place where you cannot even have a government."
There have been 1,276 deaths that he knows of so far in his church community, but the number is rising daily. "We just need prayer and money to keep going, that is all, that is everything."
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Recently, ISIS told Christians in Mosul they had to convert to Islam or face execution.
Speaking also to BBC Radio 4, Canon White said: "Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing. We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off.
"Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near."
He added: "The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go.
"We do not want Britain to forget us. We - and I'm saying 'we' talking like an Iraqi Christian - have always been with the British because they have already been with us.
"Individual churches, individual Christians in Britain, have been a bigger help than anybody around the world."
Christian communities in Iraq are among the oldest in the world, dating from the beginning of the Christian calendar. ISIS has declared a caliphate in the region.