Two messages regarding threats against Christians in Iraq are regularly circulating Christian networks, via email, WhatsApp and other social media. Even though the emails can be traced back to legitimate sources, the information is old and the situation has changed since the email was first sent out.

The emails contain “news from missionary friends in the town of Queragosh (Qaraqosh)”. It was originally sent by Sean Malone who leads Crisis Relief International (CRI) in Iraq, and the urgent call for prayer was based on the fact that at that time, ISIS has pushed back Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) and was within 10 minutes of where the CRI team was working. This email was sent privately but found its way to mainstream Christian networks that seem to have since reached around the world.

It is important to note that this email is not a hoax but the information is old.The original message was sent on 5 August 2014 and even though we still need to pray urgently for people facing dangers in this volatile region, this specific crisis has been averted.

The problem with emails of this nature is that there are no dates on the original e-mail, so for the next few days, weeks, months and even years, the crisis is still understood by those who receive the emails or WhatsApp messages as being “10 minutes away”. As Christians, we need to share the urgency of the situation and to feel anguish for those suffering and living in fear, but we still need to be careful when it comes to accuracy in terms of reporting (and sharing) news of such events.


Here is a full report on the events surrounding the original report, as published on Snopes.com:

On 5 August 2014, an urgent prayer request attributed to Sean Malone of Crisis Relief International began to circulate heavily on social media. The immediacy of the post’s tone and the frightening content it contained concerned many social media users. Subsequently, concern for Christian children at risk due to ISIS activity in Iraq escalated and prompted a number of panicked queries as to the message’s veracity.

The urgency of tone and lack of specific date appears to have escalated the virality of the plea. The original message reads as follows:

Dear Friends,

Just a few minutes ago I received the following text message on my phone from Sean Malone who leads Crisis Relief International (CRI). We then spoke briefly on the phone and I assured him that we would share this urgent prayer need with all of our contacts. 

“We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically. This is the city we have been smuggling food too. ISIS has pushed back Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) and is within 10 minutes of where our CRI team is working. Thousands more fled into the city of Erbil last night. The UN evacuated it’s staff in Erbil. Our team is unmoved and will stay. Prayer cover needed!”

Since the message appeared in August 2014, concern for the situation described in the message has not abated. Around the time Malone’s plea began appearing in inboxes, news out of Iraq indicated that the situation had indeed become dire, and the UK’s Telegraph quoted Joseph Thomas, the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah as saying on 7 August 2014:

“I now know that the towns of Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella and Karamlesh have been emptied of their original population and are now under the control of the militants … It’s a catastrophe, a tragic situation. We call on the UN Security Council to immediately intervene. Tens of thousands of terrified people are being displaced as we speak, it cannot be described.”

Thomas did not mention the beheading of children by ISIS in Queragosh (Qaraqosh) or elsewhere, but his tone too was that of extreme worry, pleading for intervention by NGOs to assist displaced residents. Understandably, many believers were moved to pray for the Christians in this war-torn region of Iraq and also worriedly sought to discern whether children were being horrifically beheaded in large numbers.

Claims that ISIS beheaded children have circulated separately from Sean Malone’s message, but are often appended with a graphic and inaccurate image. One of the main pictures used in this context, depicting a young, decapitated female child, was taken in Syria in 2013.

Several concerned users took to the Facebook page of Crisis Response International to ask about the Sean Malone forward, and the person or persons who manage the CRI page have been fielding queries about whether the original message was possibly misconstrued or sent in haste.

On 17 September 2014, CRI said:

That email was an urgent prayer alert sent to close friends over a month ago that somehow got leaked out. The reports of beheadings were what we were hearing from local pastors and other sources. The information was never meant to be blasted out publicly but for prayer as ISIS closed in our teams… We know of five children that were beheaded and this is from a city official on the ground.

An update later the same evening read:

Again this text was sent to a handful of people and was leaked. These were the reports that we were getting at that time and are now being confirmed. It wasn’t intended for public information but perhaps it was by divine intervention. In our opinion one child beheaded is an all-out outrage. We have other reports as well that we are in the process of confirming. We have done our best to post info on this page on our website and in emails about this issue.

The undated message about systemic beheadings of children in Queragosh lends itself to eternal forwarding, but as many have pointed out, much of the information is secondhand. There is little doubt Christians are being displaced and even persecuted in cities including Queragosh, but no reports of any incidents matching the claim of “systematic” beheadings have been confirmed.

SOURCE:  http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/prayer/seanmalone.asp#ldrMr8vPzPrVQEA1.99