An elderly Christian man was forced by ISIS militants to convert to Islam because he could no longer afford to pay the infidel tax imposed on non-Muslims in Raqqa, Syria.
According to AINA, a video posted by the terror group's Amaq news platform shows a man identified as Mostafa Abu Alzer reciting the "Shahada," the declaration required to enter the Islamic faith, while also stating that his conversion is of his own free will.
Abu Alzer revealed that he was one of a handful of Christians who remained in Raqqa after ISIS gave them three options: convert to Islam, pay a minority tax, or face death. In an effort to protect his home, Alzer opted to pay the minority tax, according to Syrian sources.
AINA notes that last year, Alzer was used as a poster boy for an ISIS film titled "Until there came to them clear evidence." The video featured church demolitions, executions and interviews with the 'lucky' Christians able to afford the Jizya tax.
"We paid Jizya, the one who comes to Raqqa (after paying Jizya) does not have to worry, whether he is Christian or even Jewish," Abu Alzer says, looking into the camera.
The Christian population in Syria, the region where Christianity began 2,000 years ago, has been reduced by two-thirds since the beginning of the country's civil war in 2011, from 1.5 million to only 500,000 today. In Raqqa, ISIS' stronghold, just a dozen Christian families remain, and are forced under threat of execution to convert, pay a tax or go into hiding, Fox News notes.
Raqqa first fell into rebel control in March 2013 after a battle between Al Qaeda-linked jihadi group Al Nusra and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's regime, becoming the first provincial capital under rebel control.
"The suffering of Christians began with ISIS control of Raqqa," Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered (IBSS) said on its website. "ISIS looks at Christians as infidels loyal to the West more than their loyalty to their homeland which they live."
Under ISIS rule and ongoing civil war, Christian archbishops, nuns, clerics and church leaders have been systematically kidnapped and executed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released a list late last month of over 4,000 people who have been slaughtered by the militant group in Syria since June 2014, many of them believers.
A number of Christianity's most sacred sites and treasures have been looted or destroyed by the terror group. ISIS has also taken hundreds of Christian women and girls as sex slaves and forced children into battle.
In addition to paying hefty taxes, Christians living under ISIS are not permitted to build any new churches, religious facilities, nor are they allowed to repair existing ones. They are also forbidden to publicly show any crosses, pray or recite the Bible in public, are prohibited from any acts of aggression against the Islamic State, are forbidden from stopping the conversion of any Christian to the religion of Islam and cannot sell pork products or alcohol to any Muslims nor consume these products, forbidden in Islam, in public.
While many Christians are forbidden to leave "under any condition," others choose to stay, determined to maintain a presence in the war-torn region.
As earlier reported, Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, recently urged the West to refrain from taking in any more refugees and instead put more effort into finding a solution to the devastating conflict.
"They [the West] pity the Syrians and the Christians. But do they really know about their problems? No, I don't think so, because if they did, they would have made efforts to end this war, to prevent it from continuing," he said.
"We will reconstruct our country. We want to build and stay," he said, according to Catholic Philly. "We want it to be our country and stay in this country where Christianity was born, and give a testimony of Christ's love and charity, and of the possibility to live together, as men believing in God and respectful of one another."