Fact Check

Sean Malone Queragosh Alert

CRI's Sean Malone urgently requests prayers for the children of Queragosh after systematic beheadings of children were reported.

Published Sep 16, 2014

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Prayers are needed for the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh), which has fallen to ISIS and is seeing Christian children being beheaded in large numbers.

Example:   [Collected via email, September 2014]

I received the forwarded message below to send out on my church’s prayer chain. I don’t feel comfortable sending it because there’s so much rumor floating around about ISIS and Christians. Any insight you can offer would be appreciated. Thanks.

Is this true or just a lousy rumor?
From Maggie & Nori: Hey everyone, please pass the following URGENT prayer request along to everyone you can think of: From Nori… This is urgent news from Samaritans Purse This was sent to me for prayer from Chaplains with Rapid Response Team. Pray & pass to others.

I have received these two emails from our missionary friends, one yesterday and one this morning. I just wanted to pass it on so that as many people as possible can pray specifically for our brothers and sisters. Much love and blessings

I received an e-mail today saying ISIS is beheading Christian children in the town of Queragosh (Qaraqosh) where Crisis Relief
International is working. Any reports?

“We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically.”
The above was sent to me via a prayer chain and I was wondering if it was true.

Have seen reports of children of Christians being beheading by ISIS in city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh.) Is this valid? Seems to be reported by only one source.

Later variants of the e-mail added:

Please pray for this Urgent Prayer Request from Dan and Marilyn Wilson Missionaries who are in the areas that are being attacked by ISIS are asking to be showered in prayer.
ISIS has taken over the town they are in today. He said ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the parents. The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own. They are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families - even if it means their own deaths. They are very afraid, have no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have had seen their children martyred.

Today, at 9 pm, Pope Francis calls everyone around the world, no matter where you are, or the creed or religion to a moment of meditation or prayer for peace in Syria and the rest of the world. The whole planet will be united in prayer for peace. If you can forward it, join us in urgent prayer, because the radical Islamist group has just taken Quaragosh, Iraq's largest Christian city. Where there are hundreds of Christian men, women, and children being decapitated. You're asking for prayer coverage. Please take a minute and pray for them. Pass the message to all your contacts, do not cut the chain. We were invited to pray, please pass on to others.

Since the message appeared in August 2014, concern for the situation described in the message has not abated. At 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 in the tumultuous region, but his tone too was that of extreme worry, pleading for intervention by NGOs to assist displaced residents. Understandably, many of faith were moved either way to pray for the Christians in this war-torn region of Iraq but also worriedly sought to discern whether children were being horrifically beheaded in large numbers.

Claims that ISIS beheaded children have circulated separately from the Sean Malone forward, but are often appended with a graphic and inaccurate image. That picture, 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 5 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.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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