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Christians in Iraq flee ISIS 'leave, convert or be killed' warning

Christians have reportedly been fleeing the Iraqi city of Mosul in droves after being given an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a tax or be killed, by extremist group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

On Saturday a deadline that was issued by the militants resposible for taking over large swathes of Iraq expired, with ISIS militias reportedly seizing churches and Christian homes in the city.

Archbishop Athanasius Dawood, leader of the UK's Iraqi Christian community told Premier's 'News Hour' there is now only "very poor people, and ill people, maximum ten families" left in the city in the wake of the ISIS threat.

Pope Francis has led international condemation of the ultimatum by expressing his concern for the Christians of Mosul and other parts of the Middle East, "where they have lived since the beginning of Christianity, together with their fellow citizens, offering a meaningful contribution to the good of society."

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, also released a statement condemning "in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of minority populations in Iraq" and particularly the threat against Christians."

Meanwhile, Iraq's beleagured president Nouri al-Maliki accused the organisation of trying to destroy the "centuries-old heritage" of Christians in Iraq, he said: "What is being done by the Daesh terrorist gang [ISIS] against our Christian citizens in Ninevah province, and their aggression against the churches and houses of worship in the areas under their control, reveals beyond any doubt the extremist criminal and terrorist nature of this group, he said.

According to Premier Christianity magazine, eleven years after the fall of Saddam, Iraqi Christians have dwindled from more than a million to as few as 200,000. Those unable to join the Iraqi diaspora in Europe and America fled to sister communities within Iraq. Many Christians have resettled in a town called Ankawa, in northern Iraq. And just as in the 1950s, they have rapidly built churches and religious institutions.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Theresa May has launched a national campaign aimed at preventing young people here from travelling to Iraq and Syria to fight.

Ms May has urged British Muslim families "to act" if they suspect their children or siblings are planning to join conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

'Families Matter' is backed by UK-based charity Families Against Stress and Trauma, which provides support to vulnerable families of individuals at risk of joining conflicts .

Speaking at the launch, the Home Secretary said: "Over 400 UK-linked individuals have now travelled to Syria since the uprising began. Anyone travelling to Syria and Iraq is exposing themselves to serious risks and the Government strongly advises against it.

"Providing a campaign called Families Matter is about supporting the families. Remember the family and the stress and trauma it causes when someone travels to Syria. The message is don't go to Syria, there are better ways to help.

"The best way people can help respond to the crisis is from the UK within the UK and within the safety of their families and communities.

Dr. Anthony McRoy, lecturer in Islamics at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology, told the 'News Hour' why he doesn't believe the programme will have a significant impact on the issue and would like to see a new approach introducted, he said: "the last government tried something against radicalisation after 7/7, and look how ineffective it's been"

It comes as Senior British Muslims call for a change in the law which would mean anyone going to fight in Iraq and Syria is treated as a terrorist.

Archbishop Athanasius Dawood, leader of the UK's Iraqi Christian community:

Hear Dr. Anthony McRoy, lecturer in Islamics at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology:

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