NINEVEH, Iraq (Christian Examiner) -- Nineveh is now an archeological site, but more than 2,700 years ago it was one of the largest of ancient cities. It also was the place where Jonah preached and more than 120,000 persons believed God and the king declared no one should eat, but everyone should "cry mightily to God, turn from evil and violence."
Today, 4,000 Christians, who likewise have cried out to God of Heaven, are banding together in the region as a militia to retake territory in the Nineveh Plains overrun by Islamic State terrorists.
Mosul, which encompasses areas on both banks of the Tigris River, originally sat across Nineveh which is situated on the east bank. But the metropolitan area has expanded so much that Mosul now adjoins the ruins.
Mosul has been a historic center for Assyrian Christians -- tombs for several Old Testament prophets, including Jonah, are there -- but the city was overrun by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria forces in 2014.
According to Newsweek, the Assyrian Christian population has dwindled to fewer than 3,000 because of the Islamic extremists who now control the area and are cleansing Christian towns. ISIS demands Christians to convert to Islam or pay a tax for being a non-Muslim, or otherwise be killed.
An Iraq analyst, Sajad Jiyad, told Newsweek. "The Assyrians want their land back and they -- as well as the Turkmen and the Yazidis [other ethnic/religious minorities in predominately Sunni Iraq] -- are sending a message that: 'We are going to come back and we are not going to leave our villages and towns and our cultures to be destroyed.'"
John Michael, a British-Assyrian in Iraq, told the Catholic Herald, "This is our last stand, if this fails then Christianity will be finished in Iraq." The media outlet reports the militia group is receiving funding from exiles in the United States, Australia and Sweden.
The Wall Street Journal says several Americans are helping to train the young recruits. "They said they had served in the U.S. military and were volunteering through a nonprofit organization they declined to name. They wouldn't talk about their mission or background, saying they needed to protect their identities from Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL."
One of the American trainers, 28 years old, who talked with the WSJ, said U.S. officials in Erbil were briefed on the Christian militia but were not involved. "The Americans want to stay away from this because their view is, if you train the Christians, you're starting some crazy religious war," he said.
"Well, ISIS beat you to it."