Via 60 Minutes — There are few places on earth where Christianity is as old as it is in Iraqi Kurdistan. Christians there trace their history to the first century apostles. But today, their existence has been threatened by the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State. More than 125,000 Iraqi Christians — men, women and children — have been forced from their homes over the last 10 months.
On the side of a mountain, just outside of Mosul, overlooking the Nineveh Plains of ancient Mesopotamia, is the Monastery of St. Matthew (pictured above). Founded in 363, it’s one of the oldest on earth. 60 Minutes interviewed Father Joseph Ibrahim, one of only seven monks left in the Monastery of St. Matthew. Today, he says, the monastery is threatened by the Islamic State, whose fighters advanced towards St. Matthew’s gates shortly after taking Mosul last summer. Kurdish soldiers pushed them back to this village where their flag still flies only four miles from the monastery.
Christians fleeing the Islamic State have found safe haven 60 miles north, in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous region in the north of Iraq. Some 30,000 Christians were living in Erbil before this crisis, most of them Chaldean Catholics, who follow their own ancient traditions but recognize the authority of the pope. Bashar Warda is the archbishop of this diocese. He says his congregation has swelled by more than 60,000 refugees since the crisis began.[Read more at 60 Minutes]