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France announced Monday the country would welcome Iraqi Christians forced to leave their homes as ISIS continues to take much of northern Iraq.

In a joint statement, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius and interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve denounced ISIS and extended help to Iraqi Christians. 

"France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," they said. "We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum on our territory."

The announcement followed a rally on Sunday in support of Iraq's persecuted Christians, during which about 5,000 people gathered outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Geneviève Jacques, president of France's refugee N.G.O. La Cimade, told France 24 that the country had to offer help as Iraq's neighboring countries like Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon have already been flooded by refugees.

"We are overjoyed that France has offered to open its doors to these populations," she said. "Especially because there is little place else for them to go."

The Islamic State had ordered Christian families to convert to Islam or face persecution. Most left the city under threat of execution, and their abandoned property was forfeited to militants, the AFP reported. The United Nations Security Council had denounced the act, saying it condemned "in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of individuals from minority populations and those who refuse its extremist ideology in Iraq by ISIL and associated armed groups."

According to the U.N., about 20 families from the ancient Christian minority remain in the city of Mosul, which the militant group has taken as the capital of its Islamic state. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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