A Christian man from a city outside IS' stronghold of Mosul, Iraq has shared how militants strung him up from the ceiling of a jail cell and violently tortured him - all because he refused to renounce the name of Jesus Christ.
Karlus, a 29-year-old cook, shared with persecution watchdog World Watch Monitor how, when ISIS invaded the Nineveh Plains two years ago, occupied Mosul, and many of the surrounding towns in the summer of 2014, they gave Christians four options: leave, convert to Islam, pay a protection tax (jiyza) or be killed.
While the vast majority of Christians - about 120,000 - fled, Karlus was among those who remained behind, determined to care for his disabled father.
However, like thousands of others, he was subject to horrific torture at the hands of the terrorist group. Karlus shared how, after coming into his house, militants destroyed a cross and a picture of Jesus.
"They even destroyed a piece from the Quran that was given to me by a friend," he said.
Karlus was taken to a police station unconscious after retaliating when one of the jihadists hit him in the face. There, he was hung from the ceiling of the jail he was held in, by a rope attached to his left foot.
As blood poured from his foot, militants beat and kicked him, rubbing salt into his wounds. He endured extreme humiliation, and was sexually abused in prison by three women wearing niqabs. After enduring seven weeks of extreme torture, Karlus was told he would be shot dead. However, on the day his execution was due to take place, 26 September 2014, he was miraculously released.
The young man then fled to Kurdistan, was treated in Spain for the injuries to his leg, and sought asylum in Jordan. During Karlus' imprisonment, his father had managed to travel to Baghdad, but died there in August 2015.
Despite the horrors he experienced, Karlus said his faith allows him to forgive his persecutors: "What happened is not easy, but in the end we must forgive. This is my destiny; maybe God is planning something for me."
According to statistics, there are fewer than 250-thousand Christians currently living in Iraq, down from more than a million at the start of the US-led war in 2003. In October, Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition launched a major military campaign to defeat ISIS in Mosul, effectively pushing fighters from surrounding villages.
But while ISIS is gone, NPR notes that many Christians are wary of returning home due to the destruction of their homes, a mistrust of Iraq's security forces and a fear that the Sunni Muslims in their area collaborated with ISIS.
Still other, however, have returned to their villages to replace crosses atop churches destroyed by the militant group and pray for the renewal of their devastated homelands.
"My dream is to bring all the Christians back to this village," said Father Thabet, who erected a large cross atop a hill in his home village of Karamles. "Then we will worship outside on Barbara Hill; we will have the Eucharist in the open air. Everybody will see that this is the Church; this is the Body of Christ; this is Christian land. That is my dream - to give a testimony to the world."