The terror group known as ISIS has persecuted Christians and other minorities in the areas of Iraq and Syria it controls. Now it has turned its focus to eliminating all traces of Christianity in the region.
According to Heather Saul of The Independent, ISIS released pictures through its media arm of the terror group removing a cross and destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary at an Iraqi church in Mosul. Another picture included a militant replacing the cross with the group's infamous black flag.
"What ISIS is not aware of is the fact that more videos and photos of brutality, killing, beheading, mass execution and destruction of civilization only creates more hate [towards the group] and more determination to defeat them," Elijah J. Magnier said.
Magnier told Saul that the attack took place on March 7, but its pictures were only published on Monday. SITE monitoring service said that the Ninawa provincial division of ISIS in Iraq was behind the pictures.
"Other photographs being circulated on social media show paintings depicting biblical events, such as the Last Supper, piled up on the floor," Saul wrote. "The extremist group attempts to justify this destruction by condemning the statues and religious symbols as idolatrous and therefore forbidden."
According to a report from Fox News, the latest batch of photos came from Internet watchdog Middle East Media Research Institute. MEMRI Executive Director Steven Stalinsky argued that ISIS is just following its strict interpretation of Sunni Islam in carrying out its destructive actions.
"They don't care what it's called; they are just following their ideology and that means getting rid of churches and minorities," Stalinsky said. "It is the Islamic State, and there's no room for anyone else."
The United Nations has condemned the acts as a "war crime," according to Fox News. Irina Bokova, head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, urged people in the region to stand up against ISIS.
"We cannot remain silent," Bokova said. "The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity's cultural heritage."
Magnier argued that ISIS is carrying out destructive actions toward Christian churches and cemeteries in the area for propaganda purposes. That's because the terror group has suffered setbacks and losses by Iraqi and Kurdish forces, particularly in the town of Tikrit.
"ISIS has upped its devastating path of destruction significantly in recent weeks," Saul wrote. "Fighters ransacked Mosul Museum and destroyed centuries-old manuscripts and books in its library, bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and demolished parts of the UNESCO World Heritage City of Hatra."
According to Fox News, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako urged Iraq's government and the international community "to act as soon as possible for the protection of innocent civilians and to offer them the necessary assistance in lodging, food and medication." He noted that ISIS is burning everything to the ground, including "human beings, stones and civilization."
"This is obviously a human catastrophe that cannot suffer any silence," Sako said.
Fox News reported that although many relics from the area have been taken to museums in Baghdad and around the world for safekeeping, church artifacts have been left behind. One of those places included the supposed burial place of the prophet Jonah in Mosul, which was destroyed by ISIS via explosives.