Scattered reports on Monday say that ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has blown up the Church of the Virgin Mary north of Mosul, Iraq.
A source told Iraqi News: “On Thursday evening, elements of the ISIS group detonated the Virgin Mary Church north of Mosul using improvised explosive devices.”
For a time, ISIS used the “church as their headquarters for leaders of European, Arab and East Asian nationalities to live there,” according to the source. The unnamed person also said the blast “destroyed the church entirely.”
A report from Kurdish news outlet NRTTV said ISIS blew up the Miriami Ezra church in a northern Mosul suburb. It’s unclear if the Miriami Ezra church is the same as the Virgin Mary Church.
A source told NRTTV the church demolition damaged houses belonging to Christian residents. “ISIS militants issued an ultimatum to Mosul’s Christian residents in July demanding they either convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, leave the city, or face execution,” said NRTTV in its report. “At that point, the majority of the city’s Christians had already fled, joining hundreds of thousands of other internally displaced persons.”
ISIS has blown up a number of sacred buildings, including Mosques and ancient tombs. A few weeks ago, the group damaged a wall that was constructed by the ancient Assyrians. Last year, ISIS blew up the tomb of Jonah.
The destruction of the church could be tied to ISIS’ campaign against Christians, which includes the filmed beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya last week.
Pope Francis issued a statement on the killings.
“They were killed simply because they were Christians. The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a witness that cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants,” he was quoted as saying.