“A symbol of our presence”
Christians in Iraq are distressed at the destruction of Iraq’s oldest monastery by ISIS
Since it was made known that Iraq’s oldest Christian monastery was destroyed by the terrorist militia “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” ISIS there has been widespread distress in Iraq.
“St. Elijah’s Monastery in Mosul was a symbol of the Christian presence in Iraq. The fact that it has been destroyed is terrible,” Father Dankha Issa told the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on Thursday. Father Dankha is an Iraqi monk belonging to the Antonian Order of Saint Ormizda of the Chaldeans, a religious community of the Chaldean Church which is in full communion with Rome.
The “sons of devils” relentlessly destroy
Before he was forced to flee ISIS in 2014, he lived in Saint George’s Monastery in Mosul. “St. Elijah’s Monastery was over 1,400 years old. It stood abandoned for a long time, but it meant a lot to us Christians. It was an expression of our extremely long history in Iraq.” Father Dankha said what had affected him most was that clearly; no-one was able to stop the jihadis. “It is the sons of the devil who do such work. We can only pray for them. God alone can help us.”
On Wednesday, the American news agency AP, announced that ISIS had razed St. Elijah’s Monastery to the ground. An analysis of satellite pictures of the sites conducted on behalf of the agency revealed that the monastery was actually destroyed somewhere between August and September 2014.
ISIS deliberate in its destruction of religious sites
Thousands of Christians lived in the predominantly Sunni city of Mosul in Northern Iraq right up to its conquest in June 2014, fleeing immediately following the jihadi conquest or leaving the city after receiving an ultimatum by the self-appointed ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in July 2014.
ISIS has deliberately destroyed a large number of sites of religious and cultural significance in Iraq and Syria. Worldwide concern had followed the destruction of the 1,600-year-old Mar Elian Monastery in the Syrian city of al-Qaryatayn in August of last year after the town was overtaken by ISIS. In a number of cases where ISIS has been involved, churches and church institutions were also put to different use, for instance turned into prisons.
More of the story in Mosul in the video below:
By Oliver Maksan, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada