Imagine you've been given a choice, and just days to make it. You must either change your religion, agree to pay thousands of dollars each year in punishing taxes, or you must leave your home with just the clothes on your back. No suitcases, no possessions. If you don't chose these things, you will be put to death. This is the choice many Christians were given this weekend, driven out on a new exodus from the Islamic State.
A massive humanitarian crisis is developing as the newly-formed Islamic State which spans Syria and Iraq, consolidates power. True to their militant, fundamentalist Islamic charter, the state has ordered Christians to convert or die and given them a deadline by which to flee. Those choosing to leave are not allowed any possessions.
Only those who pay a steep, but unspecified fine will be permitted to stay - as long as they keep paying.
On Friday the loudspeakers blared from every Mosque in Mosul that the Christians had their options. They could leave with nothing, pay an unspecified fine, convert to Islam, or be put to death. The deadline for the decision was on Saturday, just 24 hours.
Many Christians remained as of Saturday evening, saying they could not afford the costs to flee and they had no place to go. Departing Christians who attempted to take belongings said they were robbed of their possessions and forced to take residence in camps for displaced persons.
Phones, money, jewelry were all confiscated. Even the cars in which they have tried to flee have been taken. One woman claimed to be robbed of $15,000. Even wedding rings are being seized.
The Islamic State is serious about its intention to form a new Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East and to export Islam by whatever means necessary. The initial conquest is over, and now the consolidation of power has started. Once the cities and borders are secure, the state will likely cast its hungry gaze on neighboring cities, without respect for borders.
The entire region is in jeopardy and the Islamic State represents a potent existential threat to the world, as well as to states such as Iraq and Israel. Although they have been widely condemned for their tactics, the Islamic State is popular with people across the region especially Sunni Arabs that would like to see just such a religious state. As Christians flee, other Sunnis are flocking into the region to join the fighters there or to settle.
Some volunteers are driving towards Mosul to pick up Christians forced to walk out of the country. Most Christians are headed north to Kurdish-held territory, chiefly to the city of Dohuk.
For Christians in the region, they face extermination. Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, head of the Catholic Church in Iraq, has called for "all who have a living conscience in Iraq and all the world" to aid the victims of the Islamic State.
The next step for Christians in Mosul appears to be genocide.
The silence of the West on this is criminal.
If you're someone who prays, now would be a good time to do so... If you're someone who doesn't, now would be a good time to start.
May the Christians in Iraq carry on.