Christian leaders in the city of Raqqah, Syria, have reportedly signed an agreement to pay the jizya protection tax and accede to the demands of radical Muslim rebels who now control their city.
The agreement was announced online by The Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), one of the radical Sunni groups fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. ISIS is attempting to put in place full Sharia law in the areas of Syria it controls, and has already enforced the wearing of veils by women in the area.
Islamic law teaches that Christians and Jews living in areas under Muslim control must pay a tax known in Arabic as jizya in return for the protection of the Muslim rulers, known in Arabic as dhimma.
The Christians in Raqqah also agreed to a list of conditions, including making no repairs on any church building, no public displays of crosses or other Christian symbols, and not holding Christian services outside of the church building. Even inside the church buildings, Christians are told not to sing or read Scriptures loud enough that a Muslim standing outside the building could hear.
The ISIS statements said they had met with Christian leaders and offered them the choice of converting to Islam, accepting the terms of the dhimma agreement, or risking being killed.
“If they reject…nothing will stand between them and ISIS other than the sword,” the statement said.
Twenty Christian leaders reportedly signed the dhimma agreement, though online their signatures and names were shaded out so it is unclear the number or legitimacy of the signatures or the names of those who signed on behalf of the Christian community.
When the Syrian conflict started, Raqqah was a city of about 300,000 people, with only about 1% Christian. Many Christians fled the city and the area as the conflict grew, so it is unknown how many Christians are currently in the city.
Please pray for Christians in Raqqah and throughout Syria. Pray their faith will be strengthened, and that God will protect and watch over them. Pray also that radical Muslims, like the members of ISIS, will come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way.
Sources: VOM Sources, Middle East Concern, BBC, The Times of Israel