ISIS militants have reportedly beheaded four Christian children after they refused to convert to Islam, the latest act of violence against a dwindling Christian minority in Iraq.
The beheadings reportedly took place in a small Christian community close to Baghdad, an area recently overtaken by the Islamist militant group.
Cannon Andrew White, one of only a handful of Christian leaders who have remained in Iraq since the ISIS militants swept across the country, said ISIS has been systemically hunting down and killing Christians in Iraq.
“Things were bad in Baghdad, there were bombs and shootings and our people were being killed, so many of our people fled back to Nineveh, their traditional home,” White was quoted in the Guardian. “It was safer, but then one day, ISIS – Islamic State. They came in and they hounded all of them out. They killed huge numbers, they chopped their children in half, they chopped their heads off, and they moved north and it was so terrible what happened.”
White recounted the beheading incident, saying that ISIS militants demanded that the young children renounce Jesus and follow Islam. The children refused, he said, and were killed for it.
“Islamic State turned up and said to the children, you say the words that you will follow Mohammed,” White said. “The children, all under 15, four of them, said no, we love Yesua, we have always loved Yesua, we have always followed Yesua, Yesua has always been with us.
“They said, ‘Say the words.’ They said, ‘No, we can’t.’ They chopped all their heads off. How do you respond to that? You just cry.”
While ISIS has targeted a number of minority religious groups in Iraq — including slaughtering thousands of fellow Muslims — the group appears to be particularly targeted against Christians. In the fall, the group published propaganda showing an ISIS flag flying over the Vatican, and the group has expressed a desire to invade Rome and “break the cross.”
Verifying the report that ISIS beheaded four Christian children for refusing to convert to Islam is difficult, however. Because reporting is nearly impossible in many areas of Iraq, stories of ISIS atrocities have been circulating with little way to prove whether they are true or to what extent it might be embellished.