By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (BosNewsLife)-- Christians in Syria face a difficult Easter after the feared Islamic State (IS) group launched attacks on several Christian villages along the Khabur river in north-eastern Syria, Christians told BosNewsLife.
The revels had been seen crossing the north side of the river on March 7 after reportedly raiding villages on the south side in February. IS is still holding some 280 Christian villagers, men, women and children, as hostages following the raid, according to aid and advocacy group Barnabas Fund.
At least 1,200 families have been forced to flee to the nearby cities of Hassake and Qamishli, Christians said.
Twenty-three of the hostages were released in the first week of March. One of those released said IS entered their village of Tel Gouran rounding up everyone and driving the hostages into the jihadist-controlled Abdul Aziz Mountain area. "They kept pressuring us to convert to Islam; it was their constant focus," he reportedly said.
When the hostages refused to convert, the militants reportedly said they would be forced to pay the jizya tax, an Islamic payment allowing Christian minorities to live under Islamic rule but as "second-class citizens", reported Barnabas Fund which supports Christians in Islamic countries.
The hostages were reportedly released on condition they would not return to their village. Barnabas Fund said the situation of the remaining 260 remaining Christian hostages remains unclear.
"Pray for those who are still being held hostage by IS, pray that the Lord will protect and comfort them during this time of trial," the group asked its supporters in a statement.
Christians have suggested they may be in life danger: In February IS beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya were killed after they refused to abandon their faith in Jesus Christ.
Some were seen saying their last prayers. As the blade came to their neck they all cried in unison “Ya Rabbi Yasou’” or 'O My Lord Jesus', according to a video and Christian experts familiar with the situation.