ISIS’ jihadist actions mean Christians could disappear from Iraq in five years, says an Iraqi Assyrian priest.

Fr. Martin Hermis Dawood told the Telegraph the latest phase of Islamic extremism has only precipitated the trend of Christians exiting their ancestral lands.

“Everyone sees himself outside Iraq in a few years. They have lost their hope of staying. In five years, you will see only a few families who are unable to leave, maybe a few priests,” he said.

Surviving the odds over centuries, 1.3 million Iraqi Christians 20 years ago dwindled to fewer than 400,000 more recently. In the past two years, the rise of “Islamic State” (ISIS) has further displaced over 200,000 Christians from Iraq’s northern region of Nineveh.

When the jihadists captured Mosul and its surrounding plain in June 2014, they reinstated the traditional Islamic ultimatum to Christians: convert, pay a humbling “protection” tax (jizya), leave or be killed.

“We know very well that not every Muslim here is a terrorist, but there is a culture rising, not only here in Iraq, but in the Middle East. There’s a struggle happening in the whole world and we will be burned in this fire in the future,” said Fr. Dawood.

However Chaldean Archbishop Yousif Mirkis of Kirkuk in Iraq disagrees.

“This prognosis may be of thinkers or politicians, but not of the believers,” Mirkis told Catholic News Service at an April trauma training in Lebanon, one Middle Eastern nation where many Christians still live.

“When our faith reaches the edge, even to the point of death, there is always an intervention of God, something amazing happens,” said the Archbishop. “This is the faith of the Old Testament witnessed in Exodus and [the] parting of the Red Sea, and in the New Testament with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our faith is very rich. It dies, if you don’t use it.”