Police in Sweden are said to be investigating possible Islamic State threats made against Assyrian Christians after IS-inspired symbols and disturbing graffiti messages were found painted on at least two businesses in southwest Gothenburg.
Vandals reportedly targeted Assyrian Christian-owned businesses, including a local bakery and a pizzeria, which had their walls covered in "Convert or Die" and "The Caliphate is Here" on Tuesday. The IS logo was also spray-painted as well as the Arabic letter 'N' for "Nazarene," which IS fighters used to identify Christian families in northern Iraq last year before the Mosul takeover.
Le Pain Francois bakery owner Markus Samuelsson was in shock early Tuesday upon finding his business completely vandalized. He called the attacks "terribly painful" and said they point to signs of modern day persecution.
"I felt a sudden chill down my spine, it's terribly painful and uncomfortable — we feel threatened," Samuelsson told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. "Our family fled Turkey for Sweden in the '70s. What we're exposed to reminds us of the stories we were told as children. It's very real and threatening, and we're terrified."
Samuelsson's bakery is located near several other businesses and restaurants, although only his and a next door pizzeria, also owned by Assyrian Christians, were vandalized. Tuesday's incident marked the second time in just over one week that the pizzeria has been targeted with threatening messages and Samuelsson stressed the need for police intervention.
"It felt like they took our information seriously, but we have not received any feedback yet," he said. "I hope they take [it] seriously. The working staff at the bakery even at night and we are worried about being subjected to arson attacks or similar."
Over the past year, Gothenburg has reportedly become a hotbed for IS recruitment. An estimated 150 fighters have left the city to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria so far this year.
Earlier this week, The Christian Post reported that IS has threatened to execute 180 of 230 Assyrian Christians kidnapped from Syria back in February after a breakdown in negotiations in which the terror group demanded a sum of $12 million or more to release the hostages.
A Syrian refugee woman crosses into Turkey with her children at the Akcakale border gate in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 15, 2015. On Sunday, Turkish authorities reopened the border after a few days of closure, a security source said, adding that they expected as many as 10,000 people to come across.
Syrian Christian refugees living in Sweden say they were forced out of their asylum house by Muslim refugees who demanded they hide their crosses and banned them from using communal areas in the home they shared.
"They dared not stay. The atmosphere became too intimidating. And they got no help," said a Swedish government migration agency rep responsible for the center they were staying in to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. "They chose themselves to organize [a] new address and moved away without our participation because they felt a discomfort."
The Christians, comprised of two families, were seeking asylum after fleeing from the Islamic State in Syria. And the place they were staying at housed around 80 people with many being Syrian Muslims.
While Swedish police said they weren't notified about the harassment, immigration officials visited the residence to outline the government's rules for those who continue to live in asylum housing.
The number of Syrian Christians facing persecution in their own country has reached "biblical proportions" during the last year, according to Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors.
"Christians, not just in their hundreds, Christians in their tens of thousands [are] fleeing Iraq and Syria with little more than the clothes on their backs because of increased pressure from the Islamic State," said Mike Gore of Open Doors Australia during a webcast in November of last year.
ISIS has captured a number of cities in Syria and is on a mission to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the nation, which has led to the alienation and intense persecution of Christians.
"It is heart-breaking to witness the continuing devastation as a result of the war in Syria. Entire religious communities are being wiped out. In single attacks, Christian villages and centuries of their history has been destroyed," said Todd Daniels, the regional manager for the Middle East brance of International Christian Concern, an organization dedicated to helping persecuted Christians.
"It is not just the past that is being lost, but the future as well as an entire generation is growing up displaced by this conflict. We strongly support the call for an end to the hostilities in such a way that creates a Syria where all of its citizens – including Christians – are able to freely live and carry out their faith. We urge world leaders to act quickly, and decisively to make this a reality," added Daniels.
The violence of ISIS against Syrian Christians and other citizens who refuse to obey Islamic law knows no bounds.
Last month, two young boys were reportedly crucified and killed for not fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
These two boys were younger than 18, and were later displayed with placards hung around their necks to show their alleged "crime" in the town of Mayadin.
During Ramadan, Muslims cannot eat food, drink or have sex from sunrise to sunset. However, children are not required to participate.
ISIS seems to have no regard for children, and has used them for suicide bombings in Iraq and Syria.
"We have had reports of children, especially children who are mentally challenged, who have been used as suicide bombers, most probably without them even understanding," said committee expert Renate Winter, at the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in February. "There was a video placed [online] that showed children at a very young age, approximately 8 years of age and younger, being trained to become child soldiers."