Tags: oldest | christian | monastery | iraq | razed

Iraq Monastery Razed by ISIS

Image: Iraq Monastery Razed by ISIS

Satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press show the site of the 1,400-year-old Christian monastery, confirming what church leaders and Middle East preservationists had feared. (DigitalGlobe via AP)

By    |   Thursday, 21 Jan 2016 09:51 AM

St. Elijah's Monastery of Mosul, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, has been razed to the ground by ISIS, who continue to destroy ancient ruins of all kinds wherever they go.

"I can't describe my sadness," said the Rev. Paul Thabit Habib, 39, in Arabic, The Associated Press reported

"Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically leveled. We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land."

Habib calls Mosul his hometown, but it has been overrun by Islamic State militants since June 2014, and currently acts as one of its greatest strongholds.

The church once featured the Greek letters chi and rho near its entrance, which represented the first letters of Christ's name.

Roughly 1,400 years old, it had been a place of worship for an untold number of generations — including U.S. troops — and in fact was built around the same time Islam became a religion.

St. Elijah's is among more than 100 religious and historic sites demolished by ISIS, including sites in Nineveh, Palmyra, and Hatra.

"Oh no way. It's just razed completely," said Suzanne Bott, who spent over two years restoring St. Elijah's Monastery as a U.S. State Department cultural adviser in Iraq. She teared up when she saw the images of the destroyed site obtained by the AP.

"What we lose is a very tangible reminder of the roots of a religion," she said.

Satellite imagery shows the date of destruction was somewhere between Aug. 27 and Sept. 28, 2014. The partially restored building was 27,000 square feet with 26 distinctive rooms, including a sanctuary and chapel, before it was razed.

"The monastery, called Dair Mar Elia, is named for the Assyrian Christian monk — St. Elijah — who built it between 582 and 590 A.C. It was a holy site for Iraqi Christians for centuries, part of the Mideast's Chaldean Catholic community," the AP wrote.

"In 1743, tragedy struck when as many as 150 monks who refused to convert to Islam were massacred under orders of a Persian general, and the monastery was damaged. For the next two centuries it remained a place of pilgrimage, even after it was incorporated into an Iraqi military training base and later a U.S. base."

In 2008, six years before he was killed by Islamic State militants, American journalist James Foley published a piece about St. Elijah's restoration in Smithsonian Magazine.

He wrote that it was being saved "for future generations of Iraqis who will hopefully soon have the security to appreciate it."

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St. Elijah's Monastery of Mosul, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, has been razed to the ground by ISIS, who continue to destroy ancient ruins of all kinds wherever they go.
oldest, christian, monastery, iraq, razed
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2016-51-21
Thursday, 21 Jan 2016 09:51 AM
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