The U.S. State Department has issued a statement deploring what it calls "continued threats against Christians and other minorities in Syria" from militant Islamists at war with both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and fellow Islamic militants, the Baptist Press News website reports today (March 6, 2014).
According to a March 3 statement from State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL) announced last week in Raqqa it will force Christians in the city to "convert to Islam, remain Christian and pay a tax, or face death."
"These outrageous conditions violate universal human rights," Psaki said. "ISIL has demonstrated time and again its disregard for Syrian lives, and it continues to commit atrocities against the Syrian people."
The State Department's condemnation of ISIL comes as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the group -- a branch of al-Qaida also known as ISIS -- had given Christians in Raqqa an ultimatum to accept a "dhimma," a protection agreement similar to those between mafia families and businesses. If the agreement was not signed, the villagers would have to convert to Islam or "face the sword."