The Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Social Justice is calling for churches to pray for an end to the escalating cycle of extreme violence against Christians and others that is occurring in Iraq.

Right now, fighters from the Islamic State (IS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), are forcing Iraqi Christians in the northern city of Mosul to flee.

The IS forces gave Christians in Mosul the ultimatum of converting to Islam, paying a religious tax, or dying by the sword and had given them until July 19 to comply.

By the deadline, hundreds of the city’s Christians had fled towards the autonomous Kurdistan Region. The IS has also been committing other extreme acts of violence against Christians in that region, according to the Office of Social Justice.

Before the US invasion in 2003, there were approximately 1 million Christians in Iraq. Now there are about 450,000. Many are internally displaced, or are leaving altogether, according to a Do Justice blog..

IS forces are also persecuting the Yazidis, an ethno-religious minority also located in northern Iraq. Fleeing IS fighters, between 10,000 and 40,000 Yazidis from Sinjar and nearby areas have sought refuge on Mount Sinjar, an adjacent mountain.

However, the Yazidis refugees on the mountain do not have regular access to food or water, and 40 children are reported to have died already.

Besides the Yazidis, other groups that are suffering are Turkmen, Shabak Muslims, Shia Muslims, and some Sunni Muslims.

The United States has responded to the situation by using military aircraft to drop food and water to the Yazid religious minority members on Mount Sinjar and by beginning targeted air strikes against IS forces.

“Please pray that there would be no more violence and that those who have fled will be able to return home,” says a Office of Social Justice prayer request.

Also, pray: “Almighty God, the suffering of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq cries out to us. So many people - many our brothers and sisters in Christ - uprooted, fleeing, and in need. Relieve their suffering. End the bloodshed, and return them to their homes. We give thanks for the relief already sent in. Show us how to pray and and how you would have us respond.”